The American College Town

By Chapman, M. Perry | Planning for Higher Education, October-December 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The American College Town


Chapman, M. Perry, Planning for Higher Education


The American College Town by Blake Gumpreoht University of Massachusetts Press 2008 438 pages ISBN: 978-1-55849-671-2

Reviewed by M. Perry Chapman

In the preface to his book The American College Town, Blake Gumprecht asserts that he was compelled to write it after he discovered that no book specifically dedicated to college towns had ever been published. Those of us who have a fascination with college towns should be glad that he gave in to that compulsion. Gumprecht adeptly draws from the factors that make college towns such unique places among American communities. His unabashedly personal take on the college town is seasoned by his own experience in several such communities - as a youngster, an undergraduate, a Ph.D. candidate, a reporter, a university librarian, and, currently, an associate professor and chair of a university geography department. He has experienced college towns from almost every angle.

The book is an illuminating read for anyone drawn to a good yarn about what makes college towns the idiosyncratic places that they invariably turn out to be. Moreover, Gumprecht's reportorial instincts bring life to the history, social patterns, personalities, and politics that define the localities he has chosen to discuss. His role as a geography scholar gives dimension to what college towns mean in the larger fabric of American places and, importantly, to the colleges and universities around which they have grown.

This combination of perspectives plays out in the organization of the book. The caveat at the beginning is that the book focuses on "towns where colleges are clearly dominant" (p. 1). Thematic case studies concentrate on small cities that host large, complex universities with undergraduate enrollments that are "at least 20 percent of a town's population" (p. 2). The story lines are built around the powerful, and sometimes overwhelming, impact that large universities and their populations and policies have on the small to mid-sized towns around them. He avoids large cities where the influence of the colleges in their midst is diluted by the scale and multiplicity of forces at play. Still, Gumprecht's chosen model makes enormous headway in dissecting the college town and its complicated relationship with the institution in its midst.

The introductory chapter, "Defining the College Town," is an overview filled with history, observations, and facts describing the general characteristics of college towns in the United States. Readers of this journal will find information they intuitively recognize: college towns tend to be more liberal, cosmopolitan, and eccentric than the larger regions in which they are located; they have more youthful, better educated, and more affluent white-collar populations than most "regular" towns; they have more transient resident populations and more economic disparities within those populations. A sobering statistic is that nearly a quarter of the residents of the college towns studied live below the federal poverty level, twice the national rate. We are reminded that college towns possess a quality of cultural life disproportionate to their size, but also that tensions inevitably arise when expansive institutions with exuberant student populations come up against a resident population seeking a tranquil civil life. Gumprecht makes the revealing observation that 70 percent of the colleges located in contemporary college towns were established between the Civil War and World War II, making academic communities an integral part of America's civic fabric during one of the country's most robust periods of geographic and socioeconomic development. Although the college town is unique, as Gumprecht reiterates numerous times, it has had a fundamental influence on American life out of proportion to its numbers.

The American College Town centers on eight thematic chapters, each presenting a case discussion of a particular town and its university that Gumprecht has determined to be prototypical of the chapter theme.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The American College Town
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?