As rural America struggles, so do its colleges

Dive Brief:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports on declining populations in the rural South, which have led to enrollment decreases in area colleges dating back longer than those many in the sector are facing.
  • Shuttering industries mean lower incomes and greater tuition discounting if the schools are to enroll students. 
  • Contrasting photos from The Wall Street Journal show abandoned buildings across the street from campus edifices, amplifying the responsibility many institution leaders say they feel to the communities around them.

Dive Insight:

In Fairfield, AL, Miles College President George French has a plan to purchase the abandoned homes around the university and, through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, rebuild them and offer as housing for professors, students, and to rent to the general public. And in Los Angeles, UCLA and other institutions are working to revitalize secondary schools in the area. Increasingly, institutions are recognizing their responsibility to the communities in which they reside. 

Not only is this the right thing to do, such town-and-gown relationships in which the universities invest in the revitalization of the surrounding areas are critical for demonstrating the economic impact of the institution to those who control the disbursement of public and private funds. For institutions whose bread and butter is not research, the ability to prove they are pouring back into the community, and show a number of university employees residing in the area are more successful in attracting not just state and federal discretionary funds, but also grants and gifts from private philanthropists and small donations from inspired alumni and local residents. 

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Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Katie Bo Williams