Columbia, Maryland is one of the most affluent cities in the United States. Founded in 1967, it is now comprised of 10 independent villages and has become a popular destination for potential homeowners. Education is closely linked to income, and Columbia boasts an impressive 62% of adults with a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the national average of 31%. The city is home to several renowned universities and colleges, such as Howard Community College, University of Phoenix, American Career Institute, Lincoln School of Technology, Loyola University of Maryland, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Maryland University of Integrative Health and Johns Hopkins University.
In the strictest sense, Columbia only includes land governed by the Columbia Association. It is located in central Maryland, 32 km southwest of Baltimore and 40 km northeast of Washington D. C. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) provides access to and from Washington and Baltimore; its Monday-Friday suburban bus service connects Columbia to the Washington subway system.
The city's terrain is characterized by rolling hills and stream valleys; its road network follows this topography with many winding streets and dead ends. Columbia is located in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region and is part of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. It is bordered by the city of Savage in Howard County to the southeast. There are several malls in eastern Columbia, such as Dobbin Center Shopping Center (opened in 1983), Snowden Square (formerly part of GE's industrial plant), Columbia Crossing I and II (opened in 1997) and Gateway Overlook. Not only is Columbia close to some of the largest cities in the Mid-Atlantic region, but it also has a thriving economy that provides great job opportunities. The Mall in Columbia is a large regional mall with three main department stores (Nordstrom, Macy's and JCPenney), a multiplex movie theater and more than 200 stores and restaurants. The Columbia Association created the Interfaith Housing Corporation (now Columbia Housing Corporation) to purchase 300 units of housing for low- and moderate-income individuals with funding from the Federal Housing Authority.
This means that Columbia's revenues are much higher than the median income in the United States; its household incomes are in the 96th percentile. From these meetings came Columbia's open classrooms, interfaith centers and the then novel idea of a health maintenance organization (HMO) with a group doctor's office (the Columbia Medical Plan).