Wiscape Banner


Main Office

School of Education
353 Education Building
1000 Bascom Mall
MadisonWI  53706-1326

Tel: 608/265-6342

or by contact form


Facebook logo Twitter logo




Hillman talks to The Atlantic about, ‘Bringing college to students who can’t leave home’

May 17, 2016

The Atlantic recently posted an interesting article headlined, “Bringing college to students who can’t leave home: More people are earning degrees from far-away schools through regional campuses.”

The article beings:  As more students stay close to home for college, universities face the challenge of rethinking not only the education they offer, but how they deliver it to an increasingly diverse student body.”

It then adds: “In a paper published earlier this year, researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison noted that most new students now attend college nearby. For reasons both financial and cultural, this is especially true for poor students and those of color, who make up a growing segment of college-goers. Where there are good options, staying local works just fine. But where there aren’t quality choices, students—and local economies—lose out.”

Nicholas Hillman
The paper referenced in The Atlantic article is authored by UW-Madison’s Nick Hillman and Taylor Weichman. The American Council on Education-commissioned report is titled, “Education Deserts: The Continued Significance of ‘Place’ in the Twenty-First Century,” and it explores how where students live affects their options for attending college.

Hillman is a faculty member with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and is an affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE). Weichman is a Ph.D. candidate with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

The Atlantic Report, published May 12, explains: “A few decades ago, Montgomery County, Maryland, found itself hurting for quality four-year college options. Business, particularly the science and tech sectors, was booming and companies were hiring. And they were increasingly looking for people with bachelor’s degrees. Montgomery County had a good community college, but no public university where locals could get a four-year degree. So kids from families who could swing it went away. But the county’s demographics were also shifting. Schools were filling with more poor children from families unfamiliar with college, who were less likely to pack up and head elsewhere for school.”

The solution, The Atlantic reports: “The Universities at Shady Grove (USG). Created in 2000, USG essentially lets Montgomery County residents earn bachelor’s and even master’s degrees from nine of the 12 schools that make up the state’s university system all at one stand-alone campus 20 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County. Most students go to local community colleges and then apply to a school (Towson University or the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, for instance) for the final half of a bachelor’s degree or for a graduate degree, specifying that they want to enroll at the USG campus. The individual universities hire their own faculty, and students’ diplomas don’t bear any mark of USG. Graduates are, for all intents and purposes, earning a degree from Towson or a degree from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. But they don’t have to move to do it. And local businesses, from Marriott to Lockheed Martin, know they’ve got college graduates nearby who are already committed to staying in the area.”

The model makes good sense to Hillman, The Atlantic reports.

“I think the purpose and the possibility of replication seem to be really clear,” Hillman tells The Atlantic during a recent phone interview. After his paper went live, Hillman fielded questions about how to get rid of so-called education deserts. “This is an example of what you could do.” he said.

To learn more about this topic, check out the entire report for free on The Atlantic website.

© 2018 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System • Please contact the School of Education External Relations Office with questions, issues or comments about this site.