The state Higher Education Commission study also says that nearly 80 percent of South Carolina high school graduates who attended an in-state school have stayed here since graduating in 2002.
"We are producing highly educated students and they are staying in South Carolina. That is wonderful," said Flora Riley, executive director of Clemson University's Michelin Career Center.
The study was conducted by matching information on students who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the state's public institutions in 1997 and 2002 to driver's licenses five years later.
"Higher education is the best investment a state can make to improve its economy," said Garrison Walters, executive director of the Higher Education Commission. "Retaining a high proportion of graduates educated in the state, as we are now doing, is a huge boost to South Carolinians' quality of life."
The data on 2002 graduates showed that more women -- 71 percent -- than men -- 65 percent -- were still in South Carolina this year.
The study also showed that students earning a lottery-funded scholarship tended to stay in-state.
But those earning a bachelor's degree or higher were less likely to stay here than those getting associate degrees. And students from other states who graduated from South Carolina colleges also were less likely to stay.
The graduates who stayed tended to move to those counties surrounding the state's larger schools: Greenville, Anderson and Spartanburg in the Upstate region near Clemson and also in Lexington and Richland counties near the University of South Carolina.
Graduates also were drawn to the state's coastal counties.
The commission hopes to track graduates from private colleges in future reports.