Out of the Education Desert: How Limited Local College Options are Associated with Inequity in Postsecondary Opportunities

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Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA)

The U.S. has a stratified hierarchy of college and universities. Consequences of this stratification include large disparities in the returns to higher education between levels of postsecondary institutions, and gaps by race and income in terms of where students enroll that, together, have the potential to reproduce long standing social inequality. The authors study one potential cause associated with enrollment disparities: the uneven geographic distribution of colleges around the U.S. They find that students in access deserts are more likely to apply to and enroll in colleges farther away from home than students who have more readily available college options. In contrast, students in match deserts are less likely to apply to and enroll in academically-matched institutions. Finally, the authors discuss the equity implications of these findings and make recommendations for policy and future research.

equal educational opportunity, barriers to entry (postsecondary education), universities and colleges--location