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.
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.
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 will develop a definition for rural-serving institutions and a range of publicly available data products and tools to promote research about these critical institutions.
But, as someone who studies rural-serving colleges and grew up in a PASSHE town, it’s concerning that these conversations are happening in ways that are not aligned with evidence-based decision making. These decisions are so important to our communities that we should be committed to making sure that our assumptions are founded and our solutions are meaningfully tailored to the stated goals.
It’s difficult for me to see how making cuts to an anchor institution that has devastating effects for the local community is good for students, if those students are themselves from the community.
While I don’t know if the pay disparity seen in Oklahoma and elsewhere can be easily fixed in the short term, it can be alleviated. I don't know if we'll get it right, but we can certainly try to get it less wrong.