The Rural Community College Landscape

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are over 260 rural community colleges in the United States which educate nearly 670,000 students a year.

Rural community colleges provide a number of vital functions. In addition to offering educational opportunities and vocational training, many represent the largest employer in their communities.

In order to best serve these colleges and their students, it is critical that we understand their successes and their challenges, and develop policy solutions to support rural institutions and their communities in achieving academic and economic prosperity. ACCT will be engaging in this important work through the “Strengthening Rural Community Colleges Initiative.”

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Why Focus on Rural Community Colleges?

The relationship between college proximity and college attendance is well studied, and rural community colleges offer residents affordable education and vocational training that might not otherwise be accessible. Rural community colleges can lessen the impact of education deserts, close attainment gaps, and have the potential to drive economic growth and help sustain vibrant communities.

While the Department of Education estimates that there are 260 rural community colleges in the United States that educate around 670,000 students a year, these figures likely underestimate the total number of rural colleges and students served. The Department of Education’s definition of rural is based on distance from urban centers, which excludes many institutions that serve rural populations.


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Updates and Information

WASHINGTON— A comprehensive assessment of the needs of rural community colleges throughout the country will be conducted by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), the association announced today. The study will be funded by an 18-month, $250,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “ACCT is grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates… Read More

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How Community Colleges Can Improve Educational and Economic Outcomes for Rural Men. This issue brief summarizes the economic conditions in rural communities since the Great Recession and highlights the educational attainment of rural men. It then describes the barriers to attending college that rural men face and these promising efforts that Hinds Community College and… Read More

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