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.
Despite their crucial role in expanding educational opportunity across P-20 education and supporting regional wellbeing, there is no official list of RPUs. In large part due to an absence of a list of RPUs and a systematic way to identify and define them, until very recently RPUs were largely invisible in scholarly and policy discussions. As a result, sector-wide quantitative data and research are nearly nonexistent, and RPUs and their students experience invisibility in consequential policy and scholarly discussions. This study identified, defined, and examined the entire RPU sector and its students using an inductive, data-driven approach that identified RPUs that exhibited similar missions and institutional characteristics. This study also contributes a data infrastructure to support future quantitative inquiry into these vital institutions.
In 2002, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) defined what it means to be a regional comprehensive university (RCU) in its landmark report Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place: A Guide for Leading Public Engagement at State Colleges and Universities. Twenty years later, the forces shaping institutions and their communities have evolved. As a result, stewardship of place in 2022 must look different than it did in 2002. Recommitting to Stewardship of Place: Creating and Sustaining Thriving Communities for the Decades Ahead provides an updated framing for stewardship of place that acknowledges the new postsecondary landscape while demonstrating why recommitting to being a steward of place is more important now than ever.
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.
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.
“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."