College campuses located in rural areas offer numerous advantages that urban academic institutions don’t offer. The location of rural universities, which has often been downplayed and seen as a disadvantage, has recently re-emerged as a highlight (Field). According to Field, institutions such as Northern Michigan University take advantage of their unique locations to lure students into attending their universities. By promoting the environment and nature in their brochures and information sessions, rural colleges use their location as an advertising strategy to attract prospective applicants (Field). An example of this is in the Whitman College brochure, which made no mention of location in it’s previous edition (Field).
Now, the mission statement reads ‘Situated within the rich and complex landscape and history of the Walla Walla Valley” (Field). Because urban universities don’t offer the varied landscape and bucolic outdoors of their rural counterparts, rural universities have the advantage of a scenic location that makes all the difference when attending university. In addition to the nature-filled environments, rural universities have the distinct advantage of creating unique courses based on their surroundings (Field). A numerous amount of rural colleges have profited from their natural surroundings by creating programs in fields such as “oceanography, wildlife rehabilitation, or outdoor-adventure management” (Field). Field contends that Northern Michigan University took a giant leap by creating the nation’s first four-year program solely dedicated to marijuana. The university also created a “body farm” located in Michigan’s bitter cold location to study the decomposition of the human body, which further attracted students (Field). By taking risks, rural institutions are set apart from urban colleges and have the advantage of picturesque locations and innovative programs over their counterparts.
While rural universities do have clear advantages over urban universities, there are definitely disadvantages of countryside colleges that cannot be looked over. One of the most obvious of setbacks of rural colleges would be a lack of opportunity in agrarian areas (Davies et al.). Recently, many jobs in rural areas have disappeared due to lack of demand of natural resources such as tobacco, timber and textiles (Davies et al.).
According to Davies et al., there simply is a sparse job market in rural environments, and the wide range of opportunities for jobs in urban areas are unparalleled to the sporadically available internships in rural areas. This has a direct correlation with student life at rural universities, since the lack of opportunity to produce a steady income renders rural students at both a financial and experiential disadvantage compared to urban students (Davies et al.). In addition to lack of job opportunities, there is also a lack of diversity at rural institutions (Davies et al.). Davies et al. mentions that rurally-located universities are “struggling to sustain enrollment and a robust and diverse academic workforce.” Diversity and uniting students with a variety of different cultures are what makes college campuses thrive, and having a lack of diversity at rural institutions can deter students from applying and attending these campuses. Furthermore, the political region of many rural campuses can be seen as a disadvantage (Davies et al.). Although some students may believe that the political leanings of rural areas may attract students whose views are aligned with those, Davies et al. argues that rural colleges located in conservative regions are more likely to face setbacks in recruiting both students and faculty. While the college campus itself might be skewed towards a liberal perspective, students and professors may be uncomfortable moving to a right-wing area (Davies et al.).
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