The study found that while the students sought out information from a variety of sources, the sources they found most valuable were parents, friends, teachers, and school counselors. Students in upper grades (11th & 12th) were more likely than students in lower grades to seek out information, and upper level students were more likely to find school counselors, college resource materials, campus visits, and college representatives as most helpful, compared with lower grade students (9th & 10th) who reported that parents, relatives, or siblings were most helpful. There are several implications of this study for colleges and universities. First of all, as school counselors were cited as an important resource for information, colleges need to work with counselors to make sure they have up-to-date information. Griffin et al. (2010) explain that "erroneous information can lead to unrealistic expectations that may cause students to select goals and take actions that can actually limit positive career outcomes" (p. 178).
One way for institutes of higher learning to provide educational benefits to rural areas is through distance learning. Ludlow & Duff (2009) describe the success of such as program at West Virginia University. According to Ludlow & Duff (2009) "This program has met a critical need in the central Appalachian region to prepare pre-service special education personnel for employment and in-service special education personnel other options to access professional education opportunities" (p. 9). As the GAO described in its 1992 report, one of the challenges facing rural areas is the remoteness of its population. Distance learning helps address this issue. However, Ludlow & Duff (2009) assert that increased access to broadband internet is crucial to this development. They explain that in remote areas of the Appalachian, internet access is limited to low bandwidth connectivity. They therefore suggest that rural areas offer tax incentives for development of broadband connectivity. Once this happens, they predict that distance education will transform education on all levels.
The benefits of these educational opportunities include expanding the perspective of the students. Webster & Hoover (2006) explain that this means "preparing young people for a world that is much different from their academic institutions" (p. 91). They conducted a study to examine how a service learning activity could build relationships between pre-service teachers and underrepresented students as well as preparing college students to work in a culturally diverse workforce. Agricultural students (most who were white) from Pennsylvania State University were partnered with African-American students from urban areas for a two and half day project involving immersion in an inner city environmental educational center in southwest Philadelphia. After completing the project activities, participants were required to complete a reflection activity. According to Webster & Hoover (2006) four themes emerged from the activity: fear of the unknown, moving out of your comfort zone, group activity, and the personal impact. In expressing the fear of the unknown, participants explained that for many of them, this was the first time they interacted with someone of another race. The students from the university also explained that this was the first time they had been in an inner city environment. Webster & Hoover (2006) conclude that "service-learning can be a positive tool used to introduce agricultural college students to diversity in higher education and preparation for employment" and "experiences such as these begin to build a cadre of individuals who are ready to work in a diverse workforce" (p. 99).
In addition to educational opportunities, institutes of higher learner provide other social benefits. For example, in the wooded wetlands of North Dakota, the Turtle Mountain Community College is helping the Ojibwa reclaim their heritage and become healthier. In partnership with the Indian Health Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the college developed the Anishinaubag Wellness Center to provide information about healthful living, proper nutrition, caring for the environment, and the Ojibwa culture (HUD, 2003). As 15% of the tribe has been diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes, one of the primary goals of the center is to help the tribal members find cures for chronic illnesses. According to HUD (2003) diabetes and obesity were almost nonexistent 50 years ago, before outside assistance to the reservation resulted in unhealthy eating habits. The center will help the tribe return to its holistic approach to gardening, education and Ojibwa tradition (HUD, 2003).
Hardy & Katsinas (2007) expand on the unique role that rural community colleges provide in support of rural communities. According to Hardy & Katsinas (2007) 34% of the nation's community college students attend rural community colleges. The services provided by these schools include occupational programs, remedial and tutoring services for their students, Adult Basic Education (ABE) or General Educational Development (GED) classes, academic and career counseling services, employment and placement services for students and graduates, as well as recreational and avocational programs for communities. However, services at small rural community colleges may not be as robust as those offered at larger sized rural community colleges. According to Hardy & Katsinas (2007) that while "large rural institutions may be serving as fine arts and recreational hubs for their regions, small rural community colleges may not have the resources necessary to benefit from the economy of scale necessary to offer this kind of curricular and community programming" (p. 12). Additionally, small rural community colleges are less likely to offer services such as accelerated learning, distance learning or services such as on-campus child care. However, Hahn et al. (2003) suggest that in the areas of employee-based training and community development, community colleges have much to teach four-year universities.
Miller & Tuttle (2007) conducted a case study with rural community colleges in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas to determine how these colleges help individuals determine "their own self-identity and reflect the collective identity of those living in the town" (p. 120). They identified four themes of self-identity. These include community inclusiveness, community pride, the value-added community, and town-defining colleges. According to the study, the colleges established community inclusiveness by providing facilities for use by civic group. Additionally, the colleges offered programs and activities that brought citizens together. These included adult leisure education programs, political speakers, international performing arts, museum activities, and athletic events (Miller & Tuttle, 2007). The second theme identified by Miller & Tuttle (2007) was community pride. The study found that most of the citizens were proud of the college's existence in the community. Activities such as sporting events are sources of community pride as well. Additionally, citizens were proud of the fact that job training programs enabled them to recruit and maintain a qualified workforce. The third theme identified in Miller & Tuttle's (2007) study was value-added community. Study participants related feeling good about their quality of life in the town because the college had a positive impact on the kinds and quality of services available in the town. One survey participant noted "We've had a tough history of racism here…so to have the college here and to have it as a shining example of integration is a really good thing. It sets an example and shows young people how to get along in school and life. We're a better place because of the college" (Miller & Tuttle, 2007, p. 125). The final theme identified by Miller & Tuttle (2007) is town defining. The study participants identified their towns as college towns. Miller & Tuttle (2007) conclude that while rural community colleges mirror some of the traditional roles of 4-year colleges and universities, rural community colleges have distinct differences. "They are socially enabling institutions that improve and help form the identity of rural America, both in terms of individual communities and in terms of individuals themselves" (Miller & Tuttle, 2007, p. 126).
This paper has demonstrated how rural communities benefit from collaboration with colleges and universities. However this collaboration is beneficial to the institutes of higher learning as well. Andrew Cuomo states, "More and more, they realize that working for neighborhood revitalization not only helps the community, it also furthers the traditional objectives of education and research" (HUD, 2000, p. i). According to HUD (2000) when faculty and students work with communities, they learn from the practical application of ideas as well as from residents who have a real-life understanding of the challenges of rural communities.
Griffin, D., Hutchins, B.C., & Meece, J.L. (2011). Where do rural high school students go to find information about their futures?. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89(2), 172-181. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Hahn, A.,, Coonerty, C. & Peaslee, L. (2003) Colleges and universities as economic anchors: Profiles of promising practices. Retrieved from http://www.compact.org/advancedtoolkit/pdf/HAHN_FINAL_PAPER.pdf
Hardy, D.E., & Katsinas, S.G. (2007). Classifying community colleges: How rural community colleges fit. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2007(137), 5-17. doi:10.1002/cc.265
Ludlow, B.L., & Duff, M.C. (2009). Evolution of distance education at West Virginia university: Past accomplishments, present activities, and future plans. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 28(3), 9-17. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Miller, M.T., & Tuttle, C.C. (2007). Building communities:…