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    A provost examines the world on campus and in higher ed.

The Neighborhood Effect
July 18, 2010 - 8:12pm

All of us have heard that the key bottom line in real estate is location, location, location. The value of property, be it residential or commercial, is directly tied to the neighborhood and what positives or negatives are contained therein. How good is transportation and access; how good are the schools; how low is the crime rate; and what is the proximity to major attractions and critical needs. Do we have a water view or a strip mall view; it all enters into the equation.

For a college or university, location presently has two major dimensions. Why presently? The world is clearly changing. Students especially at the graduate level and especially also for part-time programs will, in the years ahead, no longer be attending class the way that we were educated or the way that we have taught most of our careers. On-campus programs (once again, especially part-time and graduate programs) will gravitate to distance learning, most likely the blended variety. On the undergraduate level, however, the campus experience remains crucial and the location factors are real assets or real concerns.

Going back to location - the first aspect of location is the neighborhood, the college or university is located in. Is the school in an urban setting, in a suburban setting, in a rural setting? All have their advantages and all have their disadvantages and potential students and their families have feelings and concerns triggered by these settings. We all know of schools that are located in “college towns” where the ambiance of the town directly enhances both the college experience and the attractiveness of the school or schools located there. Location as an absolute clearly makes a difference.

But there is another aspect to location and that is relative location, where you live in relation to the college or university that you are considering. For a commuter campus, this aspect is direct and uncomplicated. If you don’t live within a reasonable commute to the college or university involved, you will not be attending this school. But what if the college or university nearby is significantly residential and what if you want to “go away” to school? What happens then and what is the impact? This is a much more complicated situation. Potential students and their families often discount a very good college or university because it is too close.

Some students and their families feel that if the college or university is with an easy commute, it really can’t be a going away experience. And I have even encountered students and parents over the years who value going away to such a degree that distance away takes on a higher value than the quality of education provided. Clearly somewhat flawed judgment. A good college or university educational and co-curricular experience is fundamentally different from high school. And a university that attracts student from a majority of states and a significant number of different countries provides an environment that is very different from the neighborhood. It really is a different world. Overall, location does matter but distance is mostly a state of mind.

 

 

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