Why Rural Matters

Why Rural Matters 2023:

Centering Equity and Opportunity

The National Rural Education Association is proud to release Why Rural Matters 2023—the 10th in a series of reports analyzing the contexts and conditions of rural education in each of the 50 states and calling attention to the need for policymakers and others to address rural education issues in their respective states. 

This report is not simply an updating of data from earlier editions. This report comes in the wake of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted the rural United States in many and varied ways that we are only beginning to understand. Where does rural education currently stand, and where should we focus efforts on improving it? What specific populations within rural areas should policymakers and educators pay closer attention to? 

Considering questions such as these, Why Rural Matters 2023 includes new indicators related to well-being and equity, and two special topic sections on the impact of the pandemic on rural areas and alignment of the report with the National Rural Education Association’s Rural Research Agenda

The analyses and data presented can inform policy discussions on these and other important issues as they manifest in rural settings. The report also includes examples from states that have shown notable, positive changes over time in terms of policy measures linked to desirable outcomes for rural students—i.e., states that demonstrate a marked improvement in specific elements of their policy contexts.

Data used in Why Rural Matters 2023 come from public sources: the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Census Bureau. For this report, rural is defined using the three rural locale codes as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau.


Now Available: Why Rural Matters 2023

Thank You

NREA offers its sincere appreciation to the Rural School and Community Trust, who conceptualized this project more than 20 years ago and nurtured it through its evolution across multiple versions. We are honored to take the baton and continue this important work. We also want to recognize and thank our national partner, Rural Schools Collaborative, for their continued support of our collective work on behalf of rural schools, educators, and students across the country. A special thank you also goes out to T-Mobile for their financial support of Why Rural Matters.


Contact Allen Pratt, Executive Director, NREA at allen-pratt@utc.edu