What State U

On February 9, 2014 · 15 Comments

I mentioned the University of Idaho in a tangential comment on Résumé Bait and Switch. I focused on its location in Moscow, the city in Idaho not the one in Russia, although I noticed an additional feature I didn’t discuss at the time. The western edge of the university ran amazingly close to the state border between Idaho and Washington.

Western Edge of Univ. of Idaho, Moscow, ID

The distance from the farthest western extreme of the University of Idaho to the state of Washington measured 0.3 miles (0.5 kilometers). I walk farther than than that to get to the nearest subway station in the morning!

It wouldn’t take much effort to expand the university just a sliver and abut a neighboring state. It probably couldn’t go farther — the University of Idaho is a public state institution (i.e., not private or for profit). It’s likely confined within Idaho’s boundaries absent some sort of infinitely complicated sharing agreement with Washington involving taxpayer funding, accreditation, enrollment standards, and so on.

Was there an instance of a state university bordering directly on another state, I wondered? I set a few ground rules, and this is where the 12MC audience can participate too. I tried to limit the search to public universities and land borders; no private schools that were free of direct state control and no rivers intervening to block a leisurely stroll. Those criteria would also eliminate every minor office suite with a University of Phoenix "campus" and its ilk that happened to fall near a state border from consideration as well. True residential universities with dormitories and signs of on-campus student life would be a bonus. Examples from outside of the United States that featured international borders would be fine as well although I didn’t have time to explore them.

The search grew difficult even as I slowly relaxed my standards. In fact, I’m still searching for the elusive major state university on a land border. It may exist, and if so I know the eagle eyes of 12MC readers will discover it. Until then I offer my best imperfect discoveries.

University of Texas – El Paso

SW Side of UTEP, El Paso, Texas

Take a look at the University of Texas – El Paso. It came within a thousand feet (0.3 km) from an international border with México at its closest point according to my eyeball estimate, just across from Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua. It might as well have been located many more miles away though, with an intervening Interstate Highway, railroad track, border patrol agents (see Street View), concrete wall and river standing in the way. It might be easier to break out of a maximum security prison than to walk from UTEP into México following the most direct path.

University of Kansas School of Medicine

KU School of Medicine, Kansas City, Kansas

The University of Kansas — KU — in Lawrence, Kansas didn’t exactly hug the border. However the university placed its School of Medicine in Kansas City and that was a different story. State Line Road ran directly along the eastern edge of the medical center. That was great, however, I wanted to find where a main campus of a university matched the criteria, not just a single department.

Purchase College – State University of New York

NE Corner of Purchase-SUNY, New York

Like the University of Idaho, Purchase College – SUNY seemed to be about 0.3 mi (0.5 km) from the state border at its closest point. I’d call it a tie with credit to Univ. Idaho for being one of the state’s flagship university and also with credit to Purchase College for being located near a genuine geo-oddity, the road that New York stole from Connecticut.

Also, I don’t expect Purchase College to ever change its name to Purchase University because then it would be, well, PU.

John Brown University

Western Edge of John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas

The Oklahoma border fell about 0.2 mi (0.3 km) west of John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Also, West University Street seemed to imply future expansion, using that designation from the current campus all the way to the state line. A mostly-vacant lot separated the university from a potential Oklahoma abutment while residential areas and a cemetery constraining the campus from other directions (map). I could happen someday. The catch? John Brown was a private school.

An interesting aside about making assumptions: I figured the school must have been named for John Brown, the abolitionist. No, it was named for its founder, a different person of the same name, an early 20th Century evangelist. JBU is a private, interdenominational, Christian university with about 2,200 students, and its first three presidents were John Brown, John Brown Jr. and John Brown III. None of them, as far as I know, ever raided Harper’s Ferry.

Another Puzzle

When the 12MC audience tires of the previous task, may I suggest another? I also noticed that the University of Idaho was only 6.7 mi (10.7 km) from Washington State University. Can anyone find a shorter driving distance between flagship universities of two different states? I thought I’d cheat with the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia (yes, I know, not a state) and even then I fell short at 8.8 mi (14.3 km).

Universities selected should incorporate the name of the state either as "University of {whatever state}" or as "{whatever state} State" for this puzzle. I’d consider other suffixes for schools with sufficient stature, e.g., Texas A&M or Georgia Tech, although neither of those would score well because they’re too far from a state border. Directional modifiers and/or offshoot campus designations would be less impressive, e.g., "Central Northwest {whatever state} at Stumblebum."

On February 9, 2014 · 15 Comments

15 Responses to “What State U”

  1. Joe says:

    Based upon your example in Kansas City, I set out to find additional examples in the area (special thanks to wikpedia’s list of schools here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_schools_of_Kansas_City

    The two contenders I found for closest distance between colleges in different states are:
    1) The aforementioned KU Medical Center Campus and the Kansas City Art Institute which came in at 2.1 miles.
    2) Same KU Medical Center Campus and the University of Missouri – Kansas City (thus two official state school campuses) came in at 2.3 miles.

    In both cases, I used default addresses that either I or Google could find and it appeared one could shorted the distance using the edges of the campuses.

    I also have a nomination for the original topic of closest to a state line. Park University’s main campus in Parkville, MO is exactly 0.25 miles line of sight from the Kansas border. Unfortunately this border does lay in the middle of the Missouri River making a direct crossing impractical.
    [cue infomercial voice]
    But wait, there’s more…
    [end infomercial voice]
    Park University has another location in Downtown Kansas City that site 1.3 miles line of sight from the Kansas border (this time on land).

    I know none of these are perfect fits, but Kansas City is going to give you some of your best examples given the duel cities on a state line. That said, there are several other places to check, as I’m sure others will do for you.

  2. Philip Sites says:

    North Dakota might have the smallest combined total mileage from a border of both major state universities (boy, that was a bit of a tongue twister). UND’s easternmost point is about 1.7 miles by road to the Minnesota border and NDSU is about 1.1 miles by road to Minnesota for a total of 2.8 miles.

    I think you may have found the shortest distance between two separate major state institutions. Another worthy challenge may be finding the shortest distance between “University of {whatever state}” or as “{whatever state} State” in the SAME state. It’s a shade under 40 miles from “University of” and “State” in Delaware – it may be closer elsewhere, depending also on how one bends the rules.

    • Off the top of my head, UNC to NC State = 24 miles, might be a worthy candidate. http://goo.gl/maps/A96ym

      Throw Duke into the equation and it’s easy to see why there’s such a major sports rivalry between the three. http://goo.gl/maps/yMwud

    • Rhodent says:

      Depending on how strict you want to be, either you or TMC may be right, or there may be a third answer.

      If you restrict it to schools whose names are precisely “University of [State]” and “[State] State University”, then the answer appears to be Delaware.

      If you restrict it to flagship schools but allow variants on the name, then the answer is likely North Carolina (the school commonly known as UNC is officially the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

      If you allow any two schools where one has “University of [State]” somewhere in its name and the other has “[State] State University” in its name, then I would go with Nevada State University and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. As best as I can determine, these two schools are only 13.5 miles apart.

      • Philip Sites says:

        Wow, more ways to go with that than I originally thought…I would lean towards TMC trumping my Delaware suggestion based purely on Chapel Hill generally being accepted as the “main” campus of the UNC branches.

        TMC, you can probably do a couple more posts on higher-ed alone. Eliminating for-profits and community colleges, I’d be curious to know if any institutions literally sit next door to each other. One very close example would be Florida State being but a 5-minute walk from Florida A&M’s campus in Tallahassee.

        • Peter says:

          I’d be curious to know if any institutions literally sit next door to each other. One very close example would be Florida State being but a 5-minute walk from Florida A&M’s campus in Tallahassee.

          Albertus Magnus College is three blocks from the northernmost edge of the Yale campus (the divinity school), about that long a walk.

          • Joe says:

            “I’d be curious to know if any institutions literally sit next door to each other. One very close example would be Florida State being but a 5-minute walk from Florida A&M’s campus in Tallahassee.”

            I present yet another Kansas City example. This time UMKC and Rockhurst University as the campuses are side by side. I’ll start with links to the campus maps of each university:


            Of particular note is the area of East 52nd Street (also known as Rockhurst Rd) and Troost Ave. Based on the campus maps, UMKC has the Barkley Center building on the NW corner while Rockhurst has building on the other 3 corners. Another visual representation is the Streetview of the intersection:


            As you can see from the streetview image, the NW corner of the intersection includes a UMKC direction guide while the SE corner has a Rockhurst sign (partially hidden behind the bus stop). I’m actually sure there are several other examples across the country like this, but since I stumbled across this one while making my first post thought I would revisit it for the newest challenge.

  3. Mike Lowe says:

    At the turn of the century, Idaho used WSU’s stadium in Pullman for football games. I remember seeing it reported on TV.


  4. Dave says:

    Regarding the main article, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley has a campus in Brownsville. It was until last year the University of Texas at Brownsville and before that Texas Southmost College. It’s just as close to the border as UTEP, and even better, is between two international bridges, one of which (the one to the NW) is a major pedestrian crossing, so you can walk to Mexico.

    UT-Austin and Texas State (San Marcos) are 33 miles apart.

    UTEP and New Mexico State are 41 miles apart.

    San Diego State University–Imperial Valley (in Calexico, CA) is 1 mile from the Mexicali border crossing.

  5. Voyager9270 says:

    The Camden campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, abuts the Delaware River, the centerline of which forms the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey (though it appears there may be a narrow municipal park and riverwalk in between campus and the banks of the river). By my estimate, that puts Rutgers-Camden about 1000 feet from Pennsylvania.


    In addition, from campus, one can cross the street to the Ben Franklin Bridge pedestrian walkway and take a leisurely stroll directly into Pennsylvania. Google projects it at 16 minutes from campus to the state line by foot.

  6. Peter says:

    SUNY Purchase is not a flagship university. The SUNY system has “university centers,” “university colleges,” and “technical colleges.” The four university centers, in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook, are considered the system’s flagships. The 25 or so university colleges and technical colleges, including the Purchase campus, are basically equivalent to directionals. While Purchase offers a variety of majors its focus is on arts and music.

    Peculiarly, New York’s land-grant university, for purposes of agriculture, is at private (and Ivy League) Cornell University. State residents attending Cornell to study agriculture pay SUNY tuition rates rather than Cornell’s far higher ordinary rates. I don’t know what happens if they change majors.

  7. Peter says:

    Here are three universities that are very close together. Start at the corner of Chesterfield Road and Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh. Walk northeast on Fifth to South Bellefield Avenue, turn south, and then east on Forbes Avenue. In the space of one mile, maybe 15 minutes at a brisk walking pace, you will have gone from Carlow University, through the University of Pittsburgh campus, and ended at Carnegie-Mellon University. For all but two or three minutes of this walk you will have been next to or surrounded by the Pittsburgh campus.
    [Note: I am counting two of the Pittsburgh medical school’s hospitals as part of te university campus.]

  8. Mike Lowe says:

    According to the Wikipedia article on Texas Southern University, it was built adjacent to the University of Houston. The link is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Southern_University .

    Looking at Google Maps, the TSU campus (as shown to me shaded by Google) is right next to Robertson stadium which is the football stadium for UH. The rest of UH goes towards the northeast. TSU goes toward the west southwest. Scott street is the “border” as I see it. In my opinion, these two campuses touch each other.

    I’m using this link from Google: https://www.google.com/maps/place/29%C2%B043'19.8%22N+95%C2%B021'37.9%22W/@29.7213768,-95.3511353,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0?hl=en

    It looks like Yates high school is jammed right between to two university campuses as well. I bet the two university campuses would touch more except Yates is there.

  9. Eric says:

    Wayne State University, Detroit MI, downtown. About 1.5 miles to the Canadian border.

    Buffalo State University, Buffalo, NY. About 1.5 from the Canadian border.

    City University of New York. Multiple campuses on Manhattan within a mile or two of the Jersey state line in the middle of the Hudson River.

    University of Pennsylvania. Daily Double: not only is it 4 miles to New Jersey, but the Drexel University campus is literally across the street.

    Cincinnati State University and Northern Kentucky University about 10 miles apart across the Ohio river from each other.

    University of Vermont (in Burlington) and SUNY Plattsburgh are on opposite sides of Lake Champlain, about 25 miles drive from each other, and less as the crow flies.

    U Missouri – Saint Louis, & SW Illinois College.

    U Nebraska – Omaha, & Iowa Western Community College (Council Bluffs, IA)

    U of Western Illinois has a campus in Moline IL, on the edge of the river border with Iowa.

    East Tennesse State U appears on the map at a Hospital in Bristol TN just 0.5 from the state line with Virginia. Not a full campus, but probably a teaching hospital.

  10. Ed V says:

    The campus of Lesley College in Cambridge, MA is between the Harvard Divinity/Law School area and the undergrad dorms at the Harvard (Radcliffe) Quad.
    UCLA and CSU Northridge are 17 miles apart.

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