When deciding where to go to college, students ask several important questions: How much will it cost? What academic programs are available? Will it prepare me for my future? What colleges and universities are nearby? While most research and policy conversations understandably focus on helping students answer the first few, this last question about geography and place is too often overlooked.
In Education Deserts, Nicholas Hillman and Taylor Weichman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison explain that place still matters. They argue that place matters even more for today’s college students, many of whom work full-time, care for dependents, and have close social ties to their communities. Moreover, if higher education is to better serve students and expand educational opportunities, then stakeholders must prioritize the importance of place and understand how it shapes college options. The purpose of this brief is to explore the importance of place even further, and to raise important questions about how geography shapes educational equity and opportunity. The brief finds several “education deserts” located across the country—communities with the most constrained set of postsecondary options.