geographic considerations / why does the south lag?
“So where are the good schools?”
Above is a map I quickly made of the “top 50” departments in Bashirology1. Based on what I’ve seen of such rankings, it probably looks similar in many other disciplines. To some degree the map may reflect population density. There is a cluster on the east coast and in California and not much in the far plains. What is more curious is the stark difference between the upper Midwest and the South. Big-10 vs. ACC/SEC for sports fans. The two regions have comparable numbers of people, based on my census data estimates. About 6 programs for the south make the list and 12 for the upper-Midwest. This doesn’t seem to be a private winning over public thing. The midwestern schools are mostly public state university’s. It is also the case that 3 or the Souths 6 schools are private. Leaving only 3 public institutions in the south that crack the top 50. So why Iowa and Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois but no Alabama and Georgia, Mississippi or South Carolina?
Perhaps this reflects a difference in poverty levels or K-12 educational attainment between the two regions. Then again maybe it’s just football. A Chronicle of Higher Education article lays out some of the SECs issues with regards to
sports football and academic spending. It’s a bit long but very interesting. Actually the first comment is one of the more telling bits in this.
While it is important to recognize that universities can budget expenses differently, another telling calculation is the amount of athletics expenditures as a percentage of instructional expenditures:
Athletics Expenses as percentage of Instructional Expenses (ranked in descending order)
58% U. of Arkansas at Fayetteville
44% U. of Alabama at Tuscaloosa
40% Auburn U.
34% Louisiana State U. at Baton Rouge
34% Mississippi State U.
33% U. of Georgia
33% U. of Mississippi
28% U. of South Carolina at Columbia
26% U. of Kentucky
21% U. of Tennessee at Knoxville
18% U. of Florida
7% Vanderbilt U.
Florida and Vanderbilt just happen to be the only two SEC schools on the Top 50 map (also only two in the AAU). For comparison purposed the Big 10 has 11. These are blunt measure certainly, but the magnitude of the difference is striking.2
It leaves the question of why so few southern universities are any of the “good schools”3.
1. Standard rankings disclaimer.
2. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of stats available. For more go to http://www.nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/Default.aspx
3. FYI, I am a native southerner.