Columbia is a census-designated place in Howard County, Maryland, United States, and is one of the principal cities of the Baltimore metropolitan area. It is a planned community consisting of 10 self-contained villages. It began with the idea that a city could enhance its residents’ quality of life. Columbia has consistently ranked in the top ten of CNN Money’s Best Places to Live in the United States.
The village concept aimed to provide Columbia a small-town feel (like Easton, Maryland, where James Rouse grew up). Each village comprises several neighborhoods. The village center may contain middle and high schools. All villages have a shopping center, recreational facilities, a community center, a system of bike/walking paths, and homes. Four of the villages have interfaith centers, common worship facilities which are owned and jointly operated by a variety of religious congregations working together. Most of Columbia’s neighborhoods contain single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and apartments, though some are more exclusive than others.
Columbia’s public schools are operated by the Howard County Public School System. There are no conventional four-year colleges or universities in Columbia, but several other college-level programs have facilities there. Howard Community College is located near the town center, while the University of Phoenix, American Career Institute, Lincoln College of Technology, Loyola University Maryland, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Maryland University of Integrative Health, and Johns Hopkins University have facilities on the east side of town at Columbia Gateway Business Park. Howard County Public Library is consistently top rated among the nation’s public library systems according to Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings (HAPLR).