"America’s rural colleges were once the backbone of the country’s higher education system," Belkin notes. "Many of the smaller schools have withstood the Civil War, two World Wars and more recent recessions." (Journal graphic: Shrinking enrollment at rural colleges)
In some rural areas, residents don't pay much attention to the local college, figuring it has nothing to offer them, Belkin writes. Some colleges are trying to change that. For example, southern Michigan's Albion College, where enrollment has dropped 30 percent in the past 10 years, has given 13 full scholarships to local students in the past two years. Mauri Ditzler, who was recently hired as president of the 181-year-old school, told Belkin, “We can’t survive if this town isn’t healthy. And the town can’t survive without us." For more on Albion, see our blog item from Dec. 8.