About 30 miles and a mountain pass separate Teton County, Wyoming, from Teton County, Idaho, but the county is divided by more than geography: Teton County, Wyoming, has a whopping average $318,297 per-capita income, and Teton County, Idaho, claims a $35,000 average. Higher education reporter Nick Fouriezos of The Daily Yonder discusses three things he learned while visiting the Teton Counties.

Fouriezos writes, "I encourage you to read the piece, which deals with a number of issues being felt across rural America, from how educational institutions and state governments are trying to address workforce gaps to deepening concerns about affordable housing."

When making choices about rural areas, go where the people go. "Earlier this year, the College of Eastern Idaho teamed up with the nonprofit Education Design Lab. . . to design, test, and scale rural postsecondary programs. The college wanted to get feedback from residents of Driggs, a mostly working-class rural town in Teton County, Idaho, which is quickly seeing its own costs rise as people move there while leaving behind its neighboring counterpart in Wyoming.

"To start, the education nonprofit and the college conducted interviews at the local farmer's market. . . . But after spending more time talking to educators in the area, they realized that anybody who could afford to be buying fresh veggies at 2 p.m. on a Thursday probably wasn't their target demographic.

"They shifted gears, doing their next round of interviews while handing out gift cards at the Broulim's grocery store, a popular lunch haunt for construction and service workers in the Driggs area. . . . That moment was a good reminder: If you really want to hear from rural America, don't rely on outliers of the rural experience.

Amid shifting costs, rural communities are feeling pressure to change. Almost every year, Powell Symons says she gets approached by the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce to bring the Teton Valley Balloon Rally from Idaho over to the Wyoming side. Even though the offer has become more tempting as the region's disparities deepen, she has resisted so far. . . .To Powell Symons, it would end a four-decade tradition here in Driggs, one that draws Idahoans from all over the state each year. And having had the chance to share their love for those balloons personally, that would be a tragedy."

Higher ed can't attract students who don't feel like they have choices. "For a time, Luna dreamed of going to cosmetology school. Then she could work at a salon, doing the face masks and other lux cleansing rituals people in Jackson are willing to pay so much more money for than in Driggs. . . . Now, those plans seem far off. She has to make payments on the truck and to fix its transmission. She has to pay her share of rent on the mobile home she shares with her uncle and her grandma, who is now 82 and needs just as much help as ever.

Read the full article about higher education in rural areas by Heather Close at The Rural Blog.