Skip to content


Visualizing Achievement

Written by 2U on Mar 28, 2017

Related content: Higher Education, Data Science, Academia, Tech and Data Science, Curriculum Development

Data visualization has become a powerful tool for understanding trends in education. Kyle Walker, director of the Center for Urban Studies at Texas Christian University, recently released an interactive visualization titled Educational Attainment in America that maps degree completion across the United States using data from NHGIS and the U.S. Census. Data preparation was completed with R and Python programming languages, and the map itself is hosted by Mapbox.

Educational Attainment in America, Kyle Walker, TCU Center for Urban Studies

In the map, each dot represents between 25 and 500 people, depending on level of zoom. Each color is linked to the highest level of education attained: blue for graduate degrees, green for bachelor’s, yellow for some college, orange for high school, and red for less than high school.

The map draws a sharp contrast between educational attainment in urban areas and more rural areas, which are dotted with red, orange and yellow. “There a lot of conversations around social and political polarization between metro areas and rural areas,” said Walker “One thing that the map does allow us to observe is a clustering of individuals with at least a bachelor’s or graduate degrees in cities as opposed to rural areas.”

Last week, we sat down with Kyle Walker to discuss his project and how it can be used to used to recognize trends in educational attainment and student outcomes. See Q&A below.

Q&A: 2U and Kyle Walker on Educational Attainment in Americadata visualization

2U: Much of your work is in the demography in cities and suburbs, what drew you to look at educational attainment in particular, and how does it relates to some of the other work you have done?

WALKER: Education, over and over again is this stratifying factor in which people with the highest levels of education frequently opt to settle near urban cores rather than in suburbs.

I’m really interested in the idea of how to design interfaces to allow the public to engage with datasets that are publicly available but might require a certain level of technical expertise to really dig into. This project is a fusion of those two things, I was seeing education as an important variable as to where people live within cities, and used that as an input to this interactive interface to allow for exploration of that trend, comparison across cities, and that sort of thing.

2U: One of the things this map does is really paint a picture of the disparity in educational attainment between urban and rural areas. How do you see this potentially relating to brain drain and what regions are doing to attract and retain college graduates?

WALKER: The map reflects a stratification of labor markets between cities and rural areas, you’ll see a clustering of jobs that require higher education or graduate degrees in major cities and as such individuals with that level of education will be attracted to move there.

In areas around major research universities you do see a preponderance of people with graduate degrees, some of those may be affiliated with the universities themselves, but also with industries that have sprung up around that. You can look at examples like Cambridge and Boston, or Silicon Valley around Stanford and Berkeley. An interesting example of this is Pittsburgh, if you look at the area around Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh you see a preponderance in degrees, and so there is an association there.

Educational Attainment in America, screenshot of Pittsburgh, Kyle Walker, TCU Center for Urban Studies

2U: What conversations do you hope this will spark among individuals and officials at the community level?

WALKER: I think it’s interesting with a map like this, because functionally it’s an interface that reveals patterns in the American community survey in a public dataset, so there are many many ways people can use this information. My goal is by designing an open public interface like this, people can use it to learn more about their communities.

Every city, every community is going to have its own dynamics, its own context that informs those patterns, but I do think there is value in being able to show what the patterns look like and be able to put that into conversation with a local context serve as an illustration of what the outcomes look like within our cities. If there are areas in which people with certain educational backgrounds are residing as opposed to other places, how is that meaningful for all sorts of other initiatives within a city?

There’s research linking educational attainment of adults with that of educational outcomes of children. It’s worth thinking about if you have a neighborhood where everyone, or most of the population, has a graduate degree, how do schools perform as opposed to a neighborhood where educational attainment is less? Hopefully people can take a look at the map and start to think about those issues.

2U: What are some of the ways you think the higher education community can use this data, and the data they’re collecting at their own institutions, to think about educational attainment and outcomes?

WALKER: One thing that people could potentially use this data for is thinking about recruitment of underrepresented groups in higher education. Which I know at my university, like many others, is a priority. Using this type of information, you can look at the communities from which students are coming from. Are they coming from areas in which adults typically have a Bachelor’s degree or higher? Are we doing enough outreach in areas in which there are likely a lot of talented students, but adults don’t typically graduate from college? That could potentially, just by opening up the data, allow for outreach and recruitment in areas underrepresented in higher education.

Higher education institutions have a lot of information about student outcomes, student recruitment, admissions, that kind of thing. That’s not to say these institutions aren’t using it, but I think visualization is a powerful tool to explore trends and reveal things that might be unexpected. Visualization is something that can sometimes surprise you, sometimes it will confirm what you already expected to be there, but at times you’ll see, there is an interesting outlier that the visualization reveals or there is a trend that we hadn’t necessarily picked up on before.


Built for the Long Run: 4 Transformative Ways an MHA Impacted Eric Johnson’s Life

Learn more about what it's like to take an online master of health administration degree from MHA@GW graduate Eric Johnson

Jan 23, 2020·Molly Forman

News & Press

Arizona State University and Trilogy Education Launch Cybersecurity Boot Camp in Phoenix

We're proud to announce the launch of a cybersecurity boot camp in partnership with Arizona State University’s (ASU) Continuing & Professional Education

Jan 23, 2020·2U


Walking the Walk: How 2U's Maintaining a Culture of Inclusion

Today, 2U was recognized in Bloomberg's 2020 Gender-Equality Index. Here's why one 2Ute believes this matters.

News & Press

2U, Inc. Selected for 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for its Leadership in Advancing Women in the Workplace

2U was named to the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI), recognizing companies dedicated to transparency in gender-data reporting

Jan 21, 2020·2U

Partner Spotlight

Pepperdine’s Thema Bryant-Davis and the Reinvention of a Modern Therapist

Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis is a Duke PhD, ordained minister, psychologist, Pepperdine University professor, author, editor, dancer, poet—and a very new kind of listener.

Jan 16, 2020·Molly Forman


Stitching Ahead: Meredith Culler’s Road to an MBA

Meredith Culler found herself at a career crossroads, and MBA@UNC helped her navigate her future

Jan 14, 2020·Molly Forman


At the International Rescue Committee, Rebecca La-Touche is Negotiating Change

As the first short course graduate through 2U's IRC scholarship program, Rebecca La-Touche shares the lessons she learned.

Jan 9, 2020·Molly Forman


A More Affordable Way to Pay for Higher Education

Take a look inside 2U and EdAid’s deferred tuition partnership.

Jan 7, 2020·Molly Forman


Mohammed Wardeh Needed a Second Chance–with Trilogy, He Got One

How a boot camp graduate became a full-time software engineer at Trilogy

Jan 2, 2020·Stephen Eichinger

News & Press

2U, Inc. Launches Partnership with the International Rescue Committee

2U announced a new Purpose Partnership with the IRC to offer scholarships to their employees.

Dec 19, 2019·2U


Hi, We're 2U.

Welcome to 2U, Inc.'s new website

Dec 18, 2019·David Sutphen


The First Catch: Two Midwives, a Baby, and a Lifelong Friendship

How a clinical placement in New Mexico altered the lives of two Georgetown University alumni

Dec 18, 2019·Molly Forman

News & Press

2U, Inc. Appoints Jennifer Ogden-Reese as Chief Marketing Officer

2U, Inc. (Nasdaq: TWOU), a global leader in education technology, announced the appointment of Jennifer Ogden-Reese as its new Chief Marketing Officer.

Oct 30, 2019·2U

News & Press

2U, Inc. Appoints Paul S. Lalljie as Chief Financial Officer

2U, Inc. (Nasdaq: TWOU), a global leader in education technology, announced the appointment of Paul S. Lalljie as the company’s Chief Financial Officer.

Oct 16, 2019·2U

News & Press

2U, Inc. and Rochester Institute of Technology Partner to Deliver Online Master of Architecture

This is 2U’s first architecture offering and represents a new vertical for the company

Oct 7, 2019·2U

News & Press

St. John Fisher College and 2U, Inc. Partner to Deliver New Hybrid Doctorate of Pharmacy

This will be the first online or hybrid Pharm.D. pathway offered by an institution in the state of New York

Sep 30, 2019·2U

News & Press

Syracuse University, 2U, Inc. Partner to Offer Online Master’s Degree in Social Work

With this agreement, 2U now supports 15 online graduate degrees for Syracuse University and a series of GetSmarter short courses

Sep 12, 2019·2U

News & Press

2U, Inc. Announces Zero Interest Deferred Tuition Plan

Simmons University School of Nursing will be Inaugural Partner to Offer Student Friendly Plan

Sep 12, 2019·2U

News & Press

2U, Inc. and Keypath Education Join Emerson College to Deliver Online MA in Digital Marketing and Data Analytics

This program marks the first 2U-Keypath joint initiative since the two companies announced an alliance in February 2019

Sep 12, 2019·2U

News & Press

2U, Inc. Announces Industry-Leading Framework For Transparency

Call for greater visibility in online program management industry will help inform and empower students, universities, and policymakers

Sep 11, 2019·2U

News & Press

2U, Inc. Announces its First Online Undergraduate Degree Program in Partnership with the University of London

New affiliation provides students access to London School of Economics and Political Science’s world-renowned faculty and curriculum

Aug 5, 2019·2U

News & Press

2U Teams up with LinkedIn

2U Provides Complimentary Access to LinkedIn Premium Career; LinkedIn Career Pathways Insights to Benefit 2U Partner Universities and their Students

Feb 6, 2019·2U

News & Press

WeWork Partners With 2U to Make Higher Education More Accessible

WeWork just turned its global network of workspaces into a community for learning and made it easier for WeWork members and employees to access graduate-level degrees and courses, thanks to a partnership with online education company 2U

Jan 22, 2019·2U


The Decade Ahead Promises Great Change in Higher Education

The decade ahead for higher education will be one of great change for colleges, according to a new survey of university deans, two-thirds of whom say their institutions will look much different ten years from now.

Jun 21, 2017·Jeffrey Selingo


Navigating a Marketing World with Too Much Data

Data-driven marketers are tasked with the job of getting out the right message to the right audience at the right time in order to attract the right consumers for a desired outcome.

Jun 5, 2017·Molly Forman


Education Investment As Tech Advances

Invest in Education To Keep Up With The Speed of Technological Advancements

May 16, 2017·Lord David WiIlletts


The Hidden Value of Corporate Philanthropy

A competitive salary. Health benefits. A hip workspace. These are all elements in attracting and retaining a stellar workforce.

Apr 19, 2017·2U


Visualizing Achievement

Data visualization has become a powerful tool for understanding trends in education.

Mar 28, 2017·2U


If You Build It, They Will Work

Companies are turning to office design as a way to attract and retain top talent, the days of cubicle-farms — like a scene out of Office Space — are over.

Mar 15, 2017·2U


How Companies Use Tech to Boost CSR

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has changed along with the mindset of today’s employees. According to a 2014 Nielson study, millennials are significantly more responsive to CSR, not only when it comes to consumption but also in making employment decisions.

Mar 5, 2017·2U


Building the University Brand

More than 4,700 degree-granting colleges and universities currently compete for prospective students’ attention.

Mar 5, 2017·2U


Data for Good: The Future of Data Science

When people hear “data science,” their minds typically go to big business and tech giants using data to make money and further their businesses.

Mar 5, 2017·2U


Revitalizing American Cities in the Digital Age

Why college students choose to relocate varies. For some, it’s employment opportunities or the cost of living. For others, it’s the desire to live closer to family, change climates, or pursue a particular recreational activity.

Mar 5, 2017·2U

Partner Spotlight

Diversity and the Leadership Pipeline in Academia

Of the 1.5 million full-time faculty teaching in 2013 at degree-granting postsecondary colleges and universities, six percent were black, four percent Hispanic, and 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.

Mar 5, 2017·2U