Rural community colleges are the fastest-growing of all community colleges in the United States, but they face many challenges as they expand, a group of community-college leaders told Education Department officials and Congressional staff members on Wednesday.
Their remarks came at a "Rural Community College Day" meeting convened by the Education Department and the Rural Community College Alliance. It was the first time the Education Department has met specifically with rural-college leaders, department officials said, describing community colleges as a "linchpin" in President Obama's quest for the United States to have the world's highest proportion of adults with college degrees by 2020. Rural colleges make up 64 percent of the nation's 820
community-college districts, according to data from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and are often in areas in which few adults have college degrees.
But granting degrees to more students, which would be necessary if the Obama administration is to meet its goal, will present challenges, the college leaders said (see related chart.
"It's depressing to see that the bulk of the dollars go to our urban and suburban counterparts," said Randy Smith, president of the alliance, an advocacy group based in Oklahoma.
The Education Department hoped the meeting would show community college leaders that rural institutions are included in the Obama administration's plans, said John White, deputy assistant secretary for rural outreach. Some of the presidents expressed concern at the meeting that they were often left out in policy discussions related to community colleges...