Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Mapping America's Education Deserts


11.2 million Americans live in education deserts - in areas which are more than 60 minutes from the nearest public college. For many students (for example older students, students with child-care duties, students who work full time or those who attend college part time) higher education is only possible if they can attend a local public college. If there isn't a college nearby then they can't continue their education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has mapped out where Americans are living in education deserts. Who Lives in Education Deserts? is a superb story map which cleverly visualizes America's education deserts. The story map starts by adding 1,500 two and four year public colleges to a map of the USA. It then adds 60 minute drive time isochrones around each of those colleges to identify the areas of the USA within an hour drive of a public college. Who Lives in Education Deserts? next adds in all the census blocks that fall outside these areas to calculate the population of the country who don't live within 60 minutes of a college.

3.5% of the adult population live in the education deserts identified by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Most of these areas are rural and predominantly in the west. Over three quarters of the people living in these rural education deserts are white. Native Americans also often live in education deserts. Nearly 30% of Native Americans live more than 60 minutes drive from a public college.

Given the number of people living in education deserts it is is astonishing the U.S. really has no equivalent of the UK's Open University (OU). The OU is a public distance learning and research university where students study principally off-campus. It is one of the UK's biggest providers of undergraduate education. Many of those undergraduate students are the students (older students, students with child-care duties, students who work full time or those who attend college part time) that the American system is currently failing.
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