Thursday, October 25, 2007

Community colleges help drive economic growth in rural Arkansas and Minnesota

Of the many obstacles rural areas face in economic development, the biggest is often a lack of skilled workers. As recent studies have shown (such as this one we highlighted), rural areas tend to retain and attract people with less education. Some community colleges in Arkansas and Minnesota are trying to change that, and in doing so, they are helping to spark growth in the local economies, reports the Daily Yonder.

In Arkansas, the Southern Good Faith Fund (a non-profit subsidiary of some Arkansas banks) has partnered with community colleges to educate adults who lack a high school education, writes Bill Bishop. The special curriculum works, since eight of 10 adults are able to go through four years' of high school material in a couple semesters. In a similar way, community colleges in northeastern Minnesota have come together as part of True North, a regional economic development effort. These schools also are working to improve the skills of residents, and in this case they even are going to high schools to offer technical education.

These are not isolated occurrences, Bishop explains: "What was interesting in the stories was how important community colleges have become to rural areas. That’s a switch that’s taken place slowly over the last few decades. Today, there are nearly 600 community colleges serving rural areas. Enrollment at these schools increased 42 percent between 2000 and 2006. Community colleges are far more important to rural communities than they are to the cities."

No comments: