4-year College for the Cape: a Way to Hold On to the Young

Feb 28, 2013

The town of Yarmouth has emerged as one of the more progressive communities on Cape Cod when it comes to promoting redevelopment, particularly on Route 28. A proposal to build a 75-unit memory care facility at the former Mill Hill Club, shown here, is presently working its way through the town's review process.
Credit Ron Schloerb/Cape Cod Times

Without a general studies Bachelor Degree-granting institution on Cape Cod, local high school seniors are forced to seek higher education elsewhere. Part two in our original 3-part series "By The Numbers: Worries About Cape Cod's Workforce," examines efforts to bring a degree-granting 4-year college - with student housing - to the region. Proponents believe such an institution is key to growing the young-adult population.

(Below is a partial transcript. You can hear the full story by clicking the LISTEN button above.)


The 2010 Census tells us that during the previous decade, Barnstable County lost 32 percent of its adults ages 35 to 44. Not only does the loss of young adults and families threaten the region's cultural vitality, it also creates a workforce shortage. As baby boomers retire or move to part time work, people who think analytically about Cape Cod's demographics say the region needs to do all it can to stop Cape Codders from leaving in the first place.

Twelve years ago, Bob Salemme moved into his quiet West Yarmouth neighborhood with its modest, Cape Cod-style homes. Many of the houses here are summer places, and the 44 year old says he's friendly with his neighbors, but there aren't many around this time of year.

"It seems like people were here in the summer and then many of them leave," he said. When I came up here, I was in my early 30s, and there are not a lot of younger folks around."

Much of Salemme's generation left Cape Cod during the past decade. The 2010 Census found that there are are now 22 percent fewer people aged 35 to 44 in the town of Yarmouth than there were in the year 2000.

"I remember when I first came here there were kids driving on their bicycles, little kids, which I thought was pretty cool. But not too many."

Each year there are fewer children to see.

From 2000 to 2010, Yarmouth lost 21 percent of its 5 to 9 year olds-- prime bike riding years. The neighboring town of Dennis, which shares a school system, lost 40 percent of its 35 to 44 year olds -- prime parenting years. In total, Dennis -- a town of about 16,000 people -- lost more than 11 percent of its residents. That's almost 1,800 people, living here in the year 2000, and gone by 2010.

Salemme never thought he'd stay on Cape Cod for twelve years, but as he drives down Route 28, he says this is his home, and he cares about it. So sometimes he attends town meetings or he writes letters to the newspaper about issues such as revitalizing Yarmouth to both attract and retain younger people as year-round residents.