Mapping Rural Colleges

a project of the SSTAR Lab

About the Project

This project explores the geography of college opportunity: where postsecondary programs are offered and the communities they serve. We focus on diverse types of postsecondary programs and on rural areas. This tool is designed to allow you to explore "what counts" as higher education from a place-based perspective.

We define rural areas using the commuting zones and RUCC codes, both of which were developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA created commuting zones based on the distance people typically travel to work. Commuting zones are clusters of counties that share a common labor force and have a high degree of economic integration. We use the USDA's Rural-Urban Continuum Codes (RUCC) to define rurality at the county level.

We define postsecondary institutions using data from the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP). We are using the DAPIP dataset to identify postsecondary institutions, which contains data reported to the U.S. Department of Education by recognized accrediting agencies and state approval agencies. This dataset is more extensive than the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) because it includes every site where instruction takes place as well as institutions and programs that are not eligible for federal financial aid.

Read the Report

The final report provides a comprehensive view of rural-located colleges and postsecondary programs, and it outlines areas for further research to help inform policy and practice on rural higher education.

Download PDF Report