Much focus has been placed on the negative aspects of St. Louis, or urban areas in general. While crime rates and poverty has taken over attention in the media, little attention has been given to the positive aspects of St. Louis. One of these great advantages St. Louis has is the extensive network of universities throughout the region.
There are a number of public universities within the St. Louis region making affordable education accessible for citizens within the St. Louis region. The public universities in St. Louis include University of Missouri of St. Louis, Harris Stowe University, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in the metro east. The Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, University of Missouri at Columbia, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale lie only a few hours away. In addition there is an extensive network of community colleges within the region increasing access and lowering costs for higher education.
The number of private institutions is also extensive. Washington University in St. Louis is a top research university in the country and is one of the region’s top employers. St. Louis University is also a major private university located within the city and is recognized for its research and degree programs. Additional institutions like Lindenwood University, Webster University and McKendree University provide an array of programs for students throughout the region.
What does this mean for the St. Louis area? For one, this network of universities has produced an educated work force for the region. This has provided a healthy environment for new businesses to move to St. Louis and thrive. Because of this highly educated workforce, major employers have offices or headquarters in St. Louis. However, we must continue to work to keep this skilled workforce in St. Louis. In St. Louis Currents, Jim Evans, President of Lindenwood University, says, “To keep premium talent in this part of the country, we educators and business leaders must become aware of and more sensitive to what degree holders in their twenties and thirties are looking for in both their careers and their communities.” This is vital to prevent brain drain and see the investments the region puts into education.
Finally, these universities have allowed St. Louis to be on the forefront of technological change and research. An abundance of medical research at Washington University and St. Louis University is curing diseases and easing suffering. The problems with urban areas are being solved at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and University of Missouri St. Louis. Our local history is being preserved through all of these institutions, and the list goes on. However, these institutions are not tackling these problems alone. Collaborative efforts between the universities in St. Louis have increased their effectiveness in solving the community’s issues. The IUR is involved in both the St. Louis Metropolitan Research Exchange and the Applied Research Collaborative which are trying to solve urban questions and produce sound public policy.
The impact of these institutions on the St. Louis region is great. The network of outstanding universities is one bright spot, among many, that should receive more focus when talking about St. Louis. What other bright spots are there in St. Louis? If you sift through the negativity, a bright spot is probably not too hard to find!
 Evans, J. D. (2010). Higher education and the well-being of the St. Louis region. In M. Abbott & A. J. Theising (Eds.), St. Louis currents: the bi-state region after a century of planning (pp.375-395). St. Louis, MO: Reedy Press.