ARRC is a research collaborative and resource hub with the mission of increasing appreciation for and understanding of regional colleges and their contributions to opportunity and community wellbeing.
There is limited research on rural-serving postsecondary institutions. However, these institutions are essential to the educational opportunities of rural students and the vitality of rural communities. One barrier to research is the absence of an evidence-based definition of what it means to be a “rural-serving institution.” This project developed a metric for identifying rural-serving postsecondary institutions and offers a range of publicly available data products and tools to promote research about these critical institutions.
Despite their crucial role in expanding equity across P-20 education, foundational knowledge is lacking about how to identify and define RPUs, and there is no official list of RPUs. As a result, sector-wide quantitative data and research are nonexistent, and RPUs and their students remain largely invisible in important policy and scholarly discussions. With the support of the Spencer Foundation, this study will be the first to empirically identify, define, and examine the entire RPU sector and its students, and build a data infrastructure to support future inquiry into these vital institutions.
This policy report highlights the importance of public colleges in rural communities, while also demonstrating how COVID-19 threatens their contributions unless policymakers act swiftly to support them. We examined a group of 118 rural public colleges throughout the United States that fulfill their anchor institution role by fostering access to college, supporting local economies, addressing critical workforce shortages, and contributing to public health infrastructure.
2022 marks the 20th anniversary of AASCU’s landmark report, Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place. This report has been a touchstone for many AASCU members as they articulate their institution’s mission and set strategic priorities. ARRC is partnering with AASCU to update this strategic document in light of contemporary challenges and opportunities to help tell the story of AASCU institutions for the benefit of campus leaders, policymakers, and the general public. The project will result in three new reports, including applications for practice and policy.
“A lot of think tanks and foundations interested in rural communities, as well as those in higher education who want to do research, tend to get stuck at the same roadblock: what counts as rural?”
“By and large, the only conversation about rural is: ‘OK, we know where an institution is, and that’s how we’re classifying them. What gets lost are institutions that may not be in a place formally classified as rural, but are doing important rural service and this is because … there’s no agreed upon definition.”
"Often these colleges are thought of as being in sparsely populated places. But an institution could be located on the edge of a suburban county but draw students from nearby rural areas."