More Than 80% of the Student BODY At Most COmmunity COlleges are Maryland Residents

According to the Maryland Higher Education Commission, 91.6% of Maryland community college students are Maryland residents. This is not surprising at all as community college students tend to attend their local community college. From looking at a data table I was able to see that more than 80% of the student body at most community colleges are Maryland residents. However, only 55.4% of students at Allegany College of Maryland are Maryland residents. With that information and a bit of curiosity about using Datawrapper for mapping, I decided to build a map showing the location of the main campus of each community college and the percent of students that are Maryland residents.

Building the map was relatively simple. I used google to look up the address for the main campus address for each of the 16 community colleges in the State. I then pasted that information into the program and added typed in the Maryland resident information for each college. From my basic sense of the locations of the colleges, the placements look accurate, but I have not checked them.

I struggled with how to best visualize the data since most of the colleges have more than 80% of the student body being Maryland residents. Reducing the number of color categories to three really helped with this issue. It highlights that Allegany College of Maryland is an outliner and Hagerstown Community College is almost an outliner. I probably should have either rounded the numbers to make Hagerstown Community College 80% and reduced the categories to two colors, but I think it is a little fun to see that Hagerstown Community College does not quite meet the 80% requirement. I could also say something such as all but one community college has 79% or more of its student body as Maryland residents. If I was highlighting Allegany College for some reason I would probably do one of those options. But since I am just playing around with the data to see what jumps out at me, I have not done that this time.

After I mapped the data I saw that Allegany College is very close, less than 3 miles, from the West Virginia border. It is also close to the Pennsylvania border. There are other community colleges that are not far from the State borders, but these colleges seem to draw a smaller percentage of non-Maryland residents. Perhaps if I put the color break at a higher percentage and treated Allegany College less like an outliner that story would become clearer, but I have not yet tried that.

WHat I learned from this Mapping Experience

  • Adding location markers in Datawrapper is easy, but can be time consumming
  • Datawrapper is significantly easier to use than other mapping software such as ArcView, but the data crunching functionality is less
  • I have not yet figured out how to show just one of Maryland's counties in a map
  • When most of the data is in the same range, but there are outliners, the data can be hard to visualize
  • I haven't decided how to handle colleges with mulitple campuses when mapping. Representing the "main" campus seems to be the best way for now.
  • Color breaks can change the data story