Rural Higher Education the Social Literature Review

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Rural Higher Education

Higher Education

The Social and Economic Impacts of Institutes of Higher Learning on Rural Communities

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO, 1992), rural communities face unique challenges due to their remoteness, low population density, and dependence on a particular industry. The remoteness of rural areas leads to several challenges. The GAO (1992) explains that businesses in urban areas benefit from agglomeration, or "efficiencies gained when industries locate in close proximity" (p. 3). Businesses in rural areas are unable to reap this benefit. Additionally, residents in rural areas tend to be less informed about economic changes on the national and global level than residents in urban areas and may lack access to expertise and specialized knowledge (GAO, 1992). The lack of access is also a result of the sparse population. The GAO (1992) explains that 90% of rural towns have populations of less than 5,000; therefore, they may not have the breadth and depth expertise found in metropolitan areas. This expertise is necessary to initiate and sustain new types of economic activity to make the area competitive in a national or global economy. Because the economies of rural areas tend to rely on a single industry such as agriculture, the whole region may decline due to changes in that industry.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Literature Review on Rural Higher Education Higher Education the Social Assignment

The GAO (1992) asserts that education opportunities are instrumental to the revitalization of rural areas in order to create a highly skilled workforce or to provide training for workers to upgrade their skills or transition to a different industry. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD, 2000), "Universities house significant, and often untapped, resources that have enormous potential value to communities" (p. 2). These resources go beyond the obvious benefits of education to include using their expertise in health care, economics, law, sociology, environmental management and other fields to work with local residents and build community partnerships. This paper will review the literature on the economic and social impacts that colleges and universities are making on rural communities.

Ilisagvik College, located in Barrow, Alaska, serves the educational needs of a population of 4,500 people that live in 8 villages spread over 89,000 square miles. Therefore, Dr. Stan Scott needed a creative way to reach all of these people for the college's business and entrepreneurship training. Using a radio show called the Ilisagvik Business Circle; he reaches approximately 1,000 residents each week. His training includes weekly discussions with local business, college, and government leaders as well as provides training on business plan development, and informs the population on how the college can help them become entrepreneurs. His radio show also provides training for employees of the North Slope government (about 80% of the college's target area) on skills they need for entry-level management positions. When face-to-face training is needed, with grant-writing for example, they fly participants to Barrow (HUD, 2003).

An example of a rural area that depended on a single industry is pineapple farming near Hoolehua, Hawaii. According to HUD (2003) pineapple plantations once employed 60% of the island's residents. Now most of the pineapples are raised in Africa or the Philippines. As a result of the Hawaiian Homelands Act, Native Hawaiians may lease up to 40 acres of agricultural land for $1 per year (HUD, 2003). Maui Community College is assisting these homesteaders through its Agricultural and Vocational Center or "The Farm." The Farm offers classes in farming techniques, equipment maintenance, business planning, marketing, taxes, and human resources (HUD, 2003). In addition to helping the area economically, this program is helping the residents "reclaim their traditional livelihood" (HUD, 2003).

In a similar endeavor, the University of New Mexico (UNM) in collaboration with the Rio Grande Community Development Corporation (RGCDC) is assisting small farmers in the South Valley turn their agricultural products into commercial products such as turning tomatoes into salsa or providing fresh foods for local catering businesses (HUD, 2003). According to HUD (2003) approximately one-fifth of the area's population lives in poverty due to the decline in agriculture which has been "a vital component of the area's economic and cultural landscape for more than 1,000 years" (p. 41). The partnership between UNM and RGCDC has created the South Valley Economic Development center which serves as a commercial kitchen as well as providing other services such as technical assistance, counseling services, emergency loan funds, and access to office supplies, fax machines, and conference rooms (HUD, 2003). Additionally, UNM graduate students conducted door-to-door surveys to assist people in identifying what they do well and how they can turn that talent into a retail service.

In Texas, the University of Texas-Pan American is helping low-income rural residents of the colonias near the Mexican border achieve the dream of home ownership. According to HUD (2000) university staff and students provide bilingual homebuyer education, housing counseling, and referral services. Additionally, the university collaborates with other organizations such as local government agencies, nonprofit housing organizations, private financial institutions, and the Rio Grande Empowerment Zone to obtain down payment assistance and subsidized interest financing (HUD, 2000).

Miller & Tuttle (2007) explain that rural community colleges provide three economic development service activities. These include providing contract training, developing small business, and local economic-development planning. Contract training is training that is conducted for a specific business client for the benefit of that business (such as the Ilisagvik College example). This might include training on new computer systems, new machinery or new compliance standards. Activities that help develop small business include incubators that provide free or reduced price office space (such as UNM project mentioned earlier in the paper), consultative services and advice such as personnel policy development, hiring assistance, help with federal and state paperwork, and assistance with business plan development. Activities that support local economic-development planning include scanning for economic trends and watching legislation as well as bringing citizens together to learn about issues that have the potential to impact local business (Miller & Tuttle, 2007). Additionally, Rego & Caleiro (2010) identify eight different functions performed by universities that may potentially lead to economic development. These include creation of knowledge, human-capital creation, transfer of existing know-how, technological innovation, capital investment, regional leadership, knowledge infrastructure production, and influence on regional milieu.

Hahn, Coonerty & Peaslee (2003) outline several ways in which colleges and universities impact local economies. These include purchaser, employer, workforce developer, real estate developer, and incubator. As a purchaser of goods and services, colleges and universities can have an immediate impact on local economies. According to Hahn et al. (2003) this results in a "win-win" relationship where purchases benefit local businesses and provide improved service and delivery of goods to universities given the proximity of the local businesses. Employment at institutes of higher learning represents more than 2% of the nationwide employment (Hahn et al., 2003). For this to be a benefit in rural area, Hahn et al. (2003) suggest that universities gain buy-in from human resources departments and partner with local organizations. Colleges and universities can have a major impact as workforce developers. This is especially true for community colleges, who Hahn et al. (2003) have an advantage in this area. As real estate developers, Hahn et al. (2003) explain that colleges and universities can use capital projects to boost local economies, especially in at-risk economic corridors such as rural areas, in addition to employing local workers. An area of opportunity that Hahn et al. (2003) point out is that of incubator. These projects have typically involved high-skill areas and have bypassed high poverty areas. Hahn et al. (2003) suggest that incubator role should focus more on small business. Finally, Hahn et al. (2003) provide the following list of actions that colleges and universities should take in order to become anchor institutions:

Partnering with community-based organizations;

Incorporating job training and professional development programs in employee programs;

Engaging multiple university departments in advisory relationships;

Creating explicit economic development goals in each department backed by strong university leadership and institutional incentives to do so;

Providing needed services for employees from the neighborhoods, such as childcare and transportation;

Provide living wages;

Develop hiring policies that emphasize hiring for permanent positions;

Develop explicit agreements with community institutions;

Enabling community residents to have a central and meaningful role in the planning process of real estate development efforts;

Directing incubators and workforce programs toward vulnerable populations and communities;

Participating in affordable housing or transportation developments;

Adhering to "smart growth" principles; and Taking the time and devoting sufficient resources to building knowledge of local political and community institutions, needs and culture (pp. 7-8).

In addition to economic benefits, colleges and universities provide many social benefits to rural areas as well. The most obvious of these is educational opportunities. According to Griffins, Hutchins & Meece (2010) more than one-fourth of America's public school students attend school in rural settings. They further assert that, compared to students in metropolitan areas, students in rural schools have less access to career counseling, college preparatory courses, career academies, and school-to-work programs (Griffins et al., 2010). They conducted a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Rural Higher Education the Social.  (2011, May 18).  Retrieved August 12, 2020, from

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"Rural Higher Education the Social."  May 18, 2011.  Accessed August 12, 2020.