The differences in education and transportation in urban vs. rural areas

urban vs rural school transportationWhen it comes to education, urban schools primarily steal the spotlight — and rural schools are left in the dark. Students in both contexts face their fair share of similar issues, but these problems manifest differently. How do education and school transportation differ in rural and urban areas?
Rural schools tend to receive less government funding than their urban counterparts. They also have to bus their students far distances within school districts. A lack of reliable internet access in personal homes and in schools can contribute further to rural education problems.

Poverty rates

Unfortunately, poverty affects both rural and urban settings; 21% of children live in rural poverty, and 16% of children live in urban poverty.
Children living in poverty are more likely to experience food, clothing and housing insecurity. These insecurities, which place severe stress on a child, increase physical and mental health risks throughout childhood and beyond.
Additionally, these challenges put significant strain on the education a child receives — as well the child's ability to learn.


In rural areas, population growth can be slow or can even begin to reverse. As a result, school districts can see a noticeable decline in school enrollment. Unlike rural settings, cities often experience both financial and population growth.

Rural schools

Approximately 46 million Americans are living in rural regions. Unfortunately, policymakers and researchers primarily ignore the educational and financial issues of rural school districts because the schools are small compared to those in urban settings.
About 19% of all American students attend schools in a rural location. While this represents less than a quarter of the U.S. population, that doesn’t mean that children who live in rural areas should receive a lesser education.

Urban schools

The population growth in cities helps with resource allocation, thanks to a larger taxpayer base for public schools. Urbanization benefits these schools greatly.
While many urban schools are still underfunded, they typically have access to more assets than rural schools because of the higher population density of cities.

Government funding

When it comes to assisting schools with meeting the educational-related needs of children living in poverty, the federal government offers many programs and helpful resources.
Title I funding and programs like complimentary breakfast and lunches provide a necessary safety net for many children. Unfortunately, these benefits don’t always reach every child.

Rural schools

Rural schools often receive lower levels of Title I funding than urban schools. The funding formula focuses on the number of children living in poverty rather than the percentage of the school’s students living in poverty.
Even though rural schools have a higher average number of students living in poverty, they get less government funding because they have fewer students overall.

Urban schools

Because urban areas are significantly more populated than rural locales, urban schools are larger — which means they more easily qualify for Title I funds.
However, local and state funding is often regressive. In lower-income urban districts, there’s typically less money to be spent on educational resources for children.


With limited student enrollment in rural locations, districts often must be combined to cover larger geographic areas. This makes busing a necessary means of transportation.

Rural schools

The precious government funding that rural schools do receive often goes directly to their massive transportation budget. Lawmakers in Iowa granted 30 million dollars to their rural schools’ budgets in 2019 to offset overwhelming transportation needs. Buses in one district, which covers a total of 137 square miles, rack up 680,000 miles over the course of a school year.
Unfortunately, due to these high transportation costs, much of the district’s budget that should be allocated to education issues is redirected to support transportation needs. 

Urban schools

Most urban settings have the means for better infrastructure and public transportation like buses, subways or trains. Many public schools offer programs where students are eligible for transportation services on city buses.

Internet access

In today's tech-focus modern world, reliable internet access has become crucial for students in both rural and urban communities.

Rural schools

When surveyed by the Pew Research Center, 24% of rural Americans identified reliable internet access as a significant issue for their household. Approximately 7 out of 10 Americans living in rural areas have access to broadband internet.
Rural students who depend on internet access to log in to a virtual class or to access digital content for a homework assignment are at a clear disadvantage.

Urban schools

Some 13% of Americans living in urban areas state that they do not have access to high-speed internet. As a society, we’re getting to the point where internet access is essentially the equivalent of a critical utility.
Lawmakers should prioritize access to the internet for all people, but especially for students who need it for their education.

Education and the future

On average, rural schools have arguably less educational resources than urban schools. However, both systems are in dire need of support.
Lawmakers and policymakers should step up to assist rural schools, and look for solutions to provide adequate funding and equitable support for students everywhere. 
HopSkipDrive partners with rural and urban school districts across the country to support their unique transportation needs.


About the Author

Ginger Abbot special education

Ginger Abbot is an education and lifestyle writer with a passion for learning. Read more of her work on, where she serves as Editor when she’s not freelancing.

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