Ayers Saint Gross released the first Comparing Campuses poster at the 1998 Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) Conference in Vancouver, BC. It featured black and white figure-ground drawings of 11 campuses depicted at the same scale. Seventeen years and posters later, the collection exceeds 200 campuses.

For the 50th SCUP conference in 2015, we wanted to play up the history of SCUP by incorporating all post-secondary institutions rather than focusing on individual institutional snapshots. While we have historically focused on physical characteristics, we broadened our perspective to look at both physical and statistical data that illustrate the dramatic changes that have occurred over the past 50 years. Where were we in 1965? Where are we going today? Some of these statistics such as enrollment rates are well-known but deserve another look to validate progress. Others such as gender and diversity hint at a shifting societal role of post-secondary education that is evolving.

Our process started with researching a dozen or so metrics that could potentially comprise this year’s poster. Many matrices, charts, and spreadsheets of data later, the metrics we decided to include are (roughly) divided into four overarching categories:

  1. Access – Who is attending? Enrollment, Gender, Diversity boxes along the top row
  2. Typology – Where are students going (both by geography and type of institution)? Geography, Largest Institutions, Scale & Quantity along the middle row
  3. Faculty – Are they part-time or full-time? Faculty box in bottom left corner
  4. Money – What does it all cost? Tuition, Room & Board boxes along the bottom row

In our previous posters with figure grounds and space data, we relied on self-reported data from the colleges and universities. One thing we discovered in our research is that there is no standardization of space data reported at a national level. Per Frank Markley at Paulien & Associates, “the national government stopped collecting GSF for US campuses in 1974.” So unfortunately we could not include any space-related metrics at any standardized national level.

This data was compiled from multiple sources and we applied our own interpretations and graphics. The majority of the data was provided by The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and The Chronicle for Higher Education (as well as the Census). We not only used the published data from NCES and the Chronicle but contacted each agency and had ongoing dialogue and sharing of data. The poster is the result of a collaborative process. Although the poster comprises nine different boxes, everything in the poster is part of an ecosystem that is tied together.


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