More than 9.3 million students attended a rural school last year, but many rural schools have fewer resources and get less attention than their suburban and urban counterparts, according to the newest edition of Why Rural Matters, a report released every two years by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Rural School and Community Trust. The report contains state-level data about the nation's rural students during the 2016-2017 school year. Some key findings in the report:
  • Rural-urban education gaps persist despite continued talk from politicians and some occasional bold promises.
  • Nearly one in seven students nationwide attended a rural school in 2016-17 (rural is defined using the three main rurality measures employed by the Census Bureau).
  • More American students attend rural schools than in the nation's 85 largest school districts combined.
  • Nearly one in six rural students lives below the poverty line. One in seven qualifies for special education. One in nine has changed residence within the past year.
  • Most rural students attend school in a state where rural students make up less than 25 percent of public school enrollment. More than a quarter of rural students live in states where rural students constitute less than 15 percemt of overall enrollment.
  • The median enrollment for rural school districts is 494 students. In some states, the average is far lower: in Montana, North Dakota and Vermont, more than 90 percent of rural districts have fewer than 494 students. 
  • Rural students were much less likely than the national average to pass Advanced Placement courses.
  • Rural high school students were more likely than the national average to take dual enrollment courses for college credit.
  • Though many states provide rural school districts with a disproportionately large share of funding, 12 states provided disproportionately less funding: Nebraska, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, California, Ohio, Minnesota and New Jersey.