Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Teaming Up to Support Rural Community Colleges

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack welcomes  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as he enters the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Education Stakeholders Organization meeting held at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Nov. 6, 2009.

Secretary Duncan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and their agencies are working together to support community colleges as they provide postsecondary education and career training in rural areas.

Cross posted from the Department of Education blog:

It’s no secret that community colleges are leading the way to achieving the President’s goal for the United States to once again have the highest college attainment rate in the world by 2020. Community colleges are hubs for career-training, re-training, adult education and for recent high school graduates seeking a pathway into the careers of their choice.

For many residents of rural areas, community colleges also provide the closest access to postsecondary education and a way to obtain the skills needed for existing jobs.  However, like some of their students, many rural community colleges are doing more with less as state budgets are being cut and new resources are becoming harder to find.

During the 2011 rural community colleges conference in Oklahoma, many attendees asked about funding and resources available from the Department of Education but few were as familiar with opportunities in other federal agencies. Some rural community college administrators were unaware of the significant infrastructure of support available through their USDA Rural Development state and local offices.

As the American Jobs Act languishes in Congress, preventing an infusion of $5 billion for modernization from reaching community colleges, the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture are working together to guide campuses serving high-poverty rural communities to existing federal resources.

During a recent conference call with members of the Rural Community College Alliance and the American Association of Community Colleges, nearly 100 participants learned about USDA Rural Development programs and funding opportunities that can be used to improve facilities, support distance learning, and provide home ownership assistance as a recruitment and retention tool for faculty.

The USDA Community Facilities Program can be used for construction and renovation of classrooms and dormitories, and even to purchase transportation vehicles to serve campus facilities. The USDA Single Family Housing Programs provide homeownership opportunities to low- and moderate-income rural Americans through several loan, grant, and loan guarantee programs.

USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants can cover the cost of equipment for video conferencing and other distance learning equipment. USDA’s Community Connect program provides grants to build broadband Internet infrastructure and establish community centers to offer free public access in rural areas where broadband service is least likely to be available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.

These are a few of the ways that USDA can support rural communities, and the Department of Education is working to increase awareness of how college leaders can access these opportunities.

One Response to “Teaming Up to Support Rural Community Colleges”

  1. MsTraci'sTrails says:

    I was very encouraged after reading this article on what the USDA is doing to help Community Colleges. I am an older student who returned to school three and a half years ago to pursue a bachelor degree in Agriculture Education.
    I chose to go to Missouri State University (MSU) in Springfield, MO it is eighty miles from where I live so, to get started I attended Ozark Technical Community College (OTC) the first semester (summer 08). They have a campus in Lebanon, MO that is only thirty miles from my home. I was able to take one class on site and two online to cut down my driving expense. OTC allowed me to take a lot more of my classes on line which helped since my only class to transfer from my previous AAS Degree in Marketing Management was “Intro to PSY”. As you can imagine I had all my general education classes to take, I don’t know how I could have completed my education if it wasn’t for OTC and the extensive online classes that they offer. They were not only cheaper but some of my professional education classes were also offered.
    I am a firm believer in what Community Colleges have to offer, my youngest daughter is currently going to OTC at their Waynesville Campus. She has the A+ program and figured she could save money staying at home and commuting getting as many of her classes here before she transfers to a University to finish her education. She is working on getting her degree in Elementary Education and will be able to also take advantage of some of the teaching classes that OTC offers.
    I graduated in December 2011 and am currently looking for a teaching position. When I do finally get a job I hope to be able to guide my students in finding the best extended education program that fits their needs. I feel that even though I am older, having just recently had this experience will help me in this area.
    The USDA Single Family Housing Program sounds like a winner in helping rural people get help in obtaining housing or house repairs. I actually was referred to the USDA to get help for some house repairs that are needed so that I could quality for our local MOCA Weatherization Program. They do not do remodeling work and I need some repairs before they can proceed with what they do. Unfortunately for me since I don’t have an income (living off student loans and substitute teaching) I don’t qualify. But I know that it is a good program for those who do.
    As I said before I am encouraged by what you are doing and hope that many more colleges are able to benefit from the programs that you offer so that more students have the opportunity to a quality education that is affordable and fits their career goals

Leave a Reply