Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Optimal Spatial Distribution of Colleges

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:55 AM
Brickell Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Alec Kennedy and Mark Long, University of Washington
Are 4-year and 2-year colleges located such that aggregate educational attainment is maximized? We attempt to answer this question. To do so, we first estimate a conditional logit model of students’ enrollment choices as a function of the distance of each student from each 4-year and 2-year college in the U.S. Not surprisingly, we find that students are less likely to attend distant colleges, and resistance to distance is much stronger for enrollment for 2-year colleges. Next, we predict the aggregate level of educational attainment that results from the current spatial distribution of colleges. We then simulate what would happen if public colleges were hypothetically moved to a randomly selected location within the state, accepting all moves that increase predicted educational attainment. We then repeat this process numerous times and evaluate the extent to which there could be gains made by such hypothetical re-locations (or, more realistically, college expansions in particular needed areas). We find that states could modestly increase educational attainment by shifting 4-year public college locations toward populated areas (particularly toward areas with higher income youth) and, for the most part, by moving 2-year colleges in the opposite direction. Doing this, however, modestly raises inequality in educational attainment.