Higher Education Centers and College Towns: A Typology of the US Metropolitan Geography of Higher Education
Colleges and universities are vital institutions at the heart of many US cities. Yet existing research offers only partial insights into the US metropolitan geography of HEIs. We use institutional and metro-level data to offer a novel perspective on the geography of single- and multi-HEI metropolitan compositions. Using Latent Profile Analysis, we develop a typology of Higher Education Metros (HEMs), identifying two main classes: Higher Education Centers and College Towns, with finer delineations based on the type and intensity of HEIs. We then assess macro- and micro-level patterns in the HEM types across US metro areas, and examine meso-level representative cases. Our study provides a framework for understanding the metropolitan geography of HEI configurations, serving as a complement to emergent literature examining the relational geography of HEIs. It enables a wider, systematic perspective that generates new insights about the spatial nature of higher education in the US.