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ERIC Number: ED509575
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 82
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 16
ISBN: ISBN-978-0-8711-7377-5
Keeping Opportunities in Place: The Influence of the Rural Community College Initiative
Torres, Vasti; Viterito, Arthur
Community College Press (NJ1)
A request from the Ford Foundation prompted a fourth and final assessment of the demonstration phase of the Rural Community College Initiative (RCCI), established by the Ford Foundation. Between 1994 to 2002, 24 community colleges answered the foundation's charge to improve access to higher education and to expand the economic development of their regions. Each college was located in an economically distressed part of the United States--Appalachia, the Delta/South region, the Southwest, and tribal reservations of the Northern Plains. Questions of interest in the Phase IV assessment, the final stage of RCCI research, focused on the effect and benefit sustained by the colleges as a result of their participation. Using a mixed method approach, the research team conducted case studies with eight colleges and used federal data sets to consider how these colleges progressed on economic and access indicators in comparison to like institutions. Colleges participating in the case studies were Mountain Empire Community College and Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in the Appalachia region, Southeastern Community College and Coahoma Community College in the Delta/Southern region, Southwest Texas Junior College and Laredo Community College in the Southwest region, and Sitting Bull College and Fort Peck Community College representing the tribal colleges and universities of the Northern Plains. The assessment findings show that RCCI values were sustained through four major pathways: the colleges embraced the role of change agent, adopted a mission focus on planning, found ways to enhance student success, and developed creative efforts to sustain change. This report expands on each of these four themes. Overall, the colleges tended to do as well as, and in some cases, better than their comparison colleges on indicators of enrollment and economic factors. Three findings may be of particular interest to funding agencies. The first finding indicates that encouragement of local buy-in for change initiatives appears to result in the loss of identity for the funding agencies. As the colleges successfully integrated the changes within their own institutional structure over time, it became difficult to draw causal relationships between the sustained change and the funding identity--RCCI. The second finding was that sustained change allowed the institutions to grow as organizations, prompting them to identify new needs that required additional resources. This recognition of the need for "more" should be interpreted not as dependency on the external funder, but as a sign of sustained growth. The final finding was that the greatest influence this initiative had on the colleges was to build the capacity of these colleges to try new things and to succeed. In conclusion, RCCI appears to have stimulated, supported, and sustained impressive improvements in access and economic development in distressed rural communities, but over time these improvements were perhaps at the cost of branding. Whether that represents a problem or is evidence of success is a question for the funder. Appendices include: (1) RCCI Colleges; (2) College Case Reports; (3) Methodology; and (4) RCCI Focus Group Summary. (Contains 11 figures.) [This paper was written with assistance of Aimee Heeter, Lilia Santiague, Susan Johnson, and Lynn Barnett.]
Community College Press. Available from: American Association of Community Colleges. One Dupont Circle NW Suite 410, Washington, DC 20015. Tel: 202-728-0200; Fax: 202-833-2467; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Ford Foundation
Authoring Institution: American Association of Community Colleges
Identifiers - Location: Texas; United States