The clever folks at eColleges keep churning out some of the more interesting maps that explain where, how much, how popular,  and other burning questions about colleges in America, all of it instantly understandable to a little kid — a great marketing tool for them and fun for the rest of us.

Their widely shared map, hair-raising for parents no doubt, showing the logos of America's 50 most expensive colleges, was released with an almost apologetic note that, “For the sake of the map, we can only take one school from each state. Meaning that some notably expensive schools have been left off our list such as New York University, Columbia University, Fordham University, University of Southern California, Claremont McKenna College, etc.”

Now they've got a new one, a sort of map-as-history-lesson, that shows in animated format the spread of four-year public and private colleges across the United States, from a few tiny outposts on the East Coast in the 1600s, to finally reaching the bumpkins on the less-populated West Coast and proliferating there. Check out the video below.
And one of the more surprising bits about this latest map is that a whole lot of states have very very few college choices, relatively speaking, and a whole lot of states, especially in the East and Midwest, have a choice practically every few miles.

OK, that's an exaggeration. But check out this “motion map” of the proliferation of colleges east of the Mississippi River, compared to the relatively modest growth in the West, and the intense concentration in just a few areas of California.

Sure, much and probably most of this has to do with population. The West still  has great expanses with small towns or no towns. But as eColleges map creator Mike Simmons explains in an email:

I'm really quite proud with the end product and I believe it beautifully shows the spread of 4-year offering colleges through time in our country. It's really wild to see how education grew as our country grew, but it's also amazing to see the high density of colleges in some areas while other states are much more barren.

Simmons manually gathered all of the data, he writes, “so it took quite a long time to get this to where it is today.”

He tells L.A. Weekly via email that, “If you look at major metropolitan areas such as NYC, Boston, Chicago, and LA, you'll see they have tons of colleges while Wyoming only has about two. So, it could be the population density, but it could also be the culture of those communities. Does a child in Wyoming have the same access to education as a child in New York? Does median income of a state affect the number of colleges? I don't necessarily have the answer for these questions, but that's why I created the map… to spark these types of questions and interest from people who see it.”

He adds:

I searched the founding dates and GPS coordinates of all 2,068 schools! Our team was also able to create both a video (which looks awesome in full screen) and a GIF to make it easily sharable.

Simmons says he is no scholar regarding why certain areas in the country are jammed with choices, but he notes that, “We see growth in the late 1800s… could this be from repercussions of the Civil War or our society becoming more industrial? We also see the spread of the nation's population westward, increasing the need for more higher education institutions. Also, Post WWII shows a huge growth in colleges. It's hard to say why colleges grew the way they did.”

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