SimCity Strategy Guides
Education is one of the most critical aspects of city development, often one of the more expensive areas of city services, and typically misunderstood by a lot of players, largely because of the complete absence of helpful explanations about it in game. This article explains how the education system works.
The following sections can be found in this article:
Issues about educated and skilled workers are covered in the Industrial Zoning article, and in more depth in the article on Education & Tech Levels.
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Firstly it is very important to note that the game does NOT distinguish between different levels of education! I mention this because a lot of player comments about requiring a particular type of school in order to achieve particular education levels, or to unlock higher tech industry, or to get solar panels on houses etc - this is NOT the case!
If you open the education tab in game you'll see in the bottom right corner of the screen a little score card for your city's current education and tech levels (more about those are in the next article in this section). Education levels run from 1 to 5 and are ENTIRELY dependant on how many of your city's student population is enrolled in a school (any school).
Education levels will slowly rise once you provide educational establishments and your students go to them. Students in SimCity do not have assigned age groups, and wealth levels are irrelevant for education, so they will simply attend whichever school is nearest. Students that live within the catchment area of a school bus stop are more likely to be enrolled in school than those that don't provided that when a bus arrives at that stop, it has spare capacity (more on school buses later on).
Adult sims that make up the potential workforce do not become educated by going to school for the simple reason that sims in SimCity do not age and only students can attend school.
Instead the educated status of a working sim is determined by the status of the residential building they were spawned from at the start of the day cycle. This status is set during the previous day cycle based on the percentage of students living there had come from a school. A residential building has the fully educated status if all students came from a school during the previous day and in turn all the adults that leave from that residence will be educated, becoming eligible for any job that requires an educated Sim.
For example: 2x high density, low weath residential buildings produce 200 students, 1x grade school provides 150 desks. Next school day 150 students attend the school; the nearest residential building gets 100% attendance, the other 50%. After school students filling up the nearest building gives it the 'educated' status; the 800 adults spawned there the next day will all be educated. The second building has only 50% educated students, therefore 50% of it's workers will be flagged as educated the next day.
This is another aspect of education which causes a lot of misunderstanding. In order to create an educated population it does NOT matter which types of school you use, just as long as your enrollment is enough for all your students. The game does not track what type of school any given student might have gone to. The different types of schools DO bring other benefits to the city (see section below), but education is essentially a binary condition.
It doesn't. The first city in a region requires you to unlock the higher levels of schools by placing lower levels first (and a Department of Education), but you can use multiple grade schools to unlock the Community College or even the University without ever placing the High School if you want to.
Students will drive, walk and take mass transit to attend school, however having school bus stops does reduce school time traffic and generates higher enrollment percentages faster than not having them. School bus stops generate a small amount of happiness in residential areas for all wealth levels.
Each bus holds 50 students. If your total student population is 250 then you will need 5 buses. There is no point in having more because they will not be any more efficient at picking up students. So long as students arrive at school by the end of the day cycle they are considered as having attended school.
As with regular bus stops, it is worth considering placing a stop on either side of residential streets because Sims will not cross the road except at junctions and intersections. This is covered in more detail in the Mass Transit tips & problems article.
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Aside from generating educated Sims in residential zones, schools can also bring particular benefits to local communities and to the city.
All school types will increase local land value and happiness, and provide jobs for nearby residential areas. The grade school will lead to a small reduction in crime rates, the high school has a greater reduction in crime along with a reduced risk of fire starting, reduced sickness levels and increased recycling and less garbage disposal. All buildings with the educated status will benefit from these improvements. The Community College and University will increase the tech level of industry within the city, and the university can be used to start research projects to unlock various buildings and great works within your region.
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There are two aspects to increasing your education level which you need to manage. The number of available desks is determined by the capacity of your school system. The high school is recommended for more populous cities because it has much higher capacity (4800 vs 950). Enrollment means how many of your students actually got to school because it's all very well having lots of capacity, but if most of your students aren't turning up, your city's education level will not rise.
Poor enrollment is typically due to gaps in the school bus network (see above) or awful traffic which preventing students from reaching the school on time. If you have large areas of residential zoning which is a significant distance away from the nearest school then make sure you have bus stops there. Consider adding some mass transit options in case you don't have sufficient school buses. If all else fails then putting a new school in areas where enrollment is low will solve the problem. Sometimes multiple grade schools can be more effective than a single high school simply because they reduce lengthy journeys and allow enrollment to improve in local communities.
Libraries are a special case within the education system. They do not provide desks for students to use, instead the library functions much like a park; it is a facility that Sims who are flagged as 'shoppers' can use if there is no nearby commercial zoning of the correct wealth level, if nearby stores are out of goods, or the household the Sims came from has run out of money.
Sims that attend libraries will contribute to the education level of the household they return to (although to be honest I'm not clear on precisely how that is achieved as normally it is the student enrollment that determines the education status of a building - what happens if all the students in a building are educated, does the building become super-educated if some of the adults visited the library on their day off!?). Libraries have fairly limited usefulness unless you deliberately design your city so that shoppers are forced to use them because there are no other facilities. Putting schools, shops or even parks near to libraries diminishes their usefulness greatly as Sims will use all these other buildings in preference to going to the library.
Like schools libraries can be used by Sims of all wealth levels, and being a positive city building they do increase local land value by a small amount. In general they are useful for isolated areas where your school enrollment is nearly full, but not quite, otherwise they are simply too ineffective to really raise your city's education level on their own.