Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Diversifying an Economy through New Businesses and Job Training

The PBS NewsHour series included a segment on September 12, 2017, "Job training and community college put coal miners on a new path," that offers a number of ideas for higher education institutions interested in meeting the needs of underserved populations.  

The 7-minute video focuses on programs of the Coalfield Development Corporation in southern West Virginia.  Students and the corporation's CEO, Brandon Dennison, share details of the initiative and what they are accomplishing by launching new businesses designed to diversify the economy.  

The ventures provide opportunities for unemployed coal miners and others to receive a combination of job training and community college education.  One of the highlighted business is focused on reclaiming former mines by converting the land to farms. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Universities as Partners for Innovation

Owen Skae, a director with Rhodes Business School of Rhodes University in Grahamstown, argues that South African higher education institutions can play larger roles as innovation hubs in "Universities should focus on growth of their cities."  His article was posted by the country's Business Day on July 28, 2017.

Skae explores the concept of university, business, and government partnerships in larger cities that are identified by vibrant economic, cultural, and social opportunities.  He then cites a number of writers who are thinking there are "...opportunities for smaller cities and towns, with an emphasis on university cities and towns, because they offer academic and cultural stimulation and are, or should be, centres of creative thinking and innovation."  Skae concludes by noting that South African cities and their universities offer many opportunities and can benefit by studying the lessons of initiatives in other global cities.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Investment in Higher Education sparks Transformation of Spokane

The Spokesman-Review published an article, "Spokane has transformed from a gritty railroad town to a hub for young professionals, health science students," with reporting by John Webster that provides a review of the city's transformation over the past few decades and future plans for its university district.  Webster provides historical context for the changes and the maps accompanying the article are very helpful.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Are there Observations from the 'New Urban Crisis' that apply in Rural Communities?

Joshua Kim reviews Richard Florida's new book for Inside Higher Ed in a recent post, "The Rural University and Richard Florida's 'New Urban crisis.'"  

Kim begins by offering Florida's observation that urban development strategies focusing on cultural amenities may be attractive to knowledge workers, but their impact is also increasing cultural divides by failing to improve the lives of the service workers or the working class.  Kim then suggests that many of the characteristics of urban areas offered in the book are similar to the situation faced by rural communities with higher education institutions.  

Rural college towns can be attractive to emerging firms and their employees, but they also face significant challenges of disparities in housing, transportation, and incomes.  

Kim concludes with intriguing questions...where are the academic ruralists who share a focus similar to Florida and are writing about the successful or challenging aspects of small towns?  While there may not be current books by writers of similar stature to Richard Florida, there have been quite a few articles this spring in a variety of publications reflecting an interest in small college towns.  A sample of four authors follow and I encourage readers to offer comments below if they know of others.
  • The Atlantic posted an article by Alana Semuels on May 2, 2017, "Could Small-Town Harvards Revive Rural Economies?"  Semuels initially lays out the argument that rural college towns are generally better off economically than similar communities without colleges. 
  • Noah Smith of Bloomberg, who is also, a faculty member at Stony Brook University, followed a week later on March 30, 2017 with "Colleges Can Sport a Rust Belt Revival."
  • Governing featured a post by Aaron M. Renn, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, "Can a Small College Save Its Small Town?offering comments on a trend where small colleges are taking a more active role in the communities where they reside.  
  • Douglas Belkin's article, "To Save Themselves, Small Colleges Offer Lifeline to Their Hometown," last week in the Wall Street Journal.  Belkin focuses his reporting on several small colleges that are thinking strategically about relationships with their respective communities and includes references to Albion College, Monmouth College, Ripon College, Niagra University, and Emory and Henry College.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Analysis of Different Trajectories at Clarion University and Slippery Rock University

Bill Schackner of the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provides fascinating reporting on the different trajectories of Clarion University and Slipper Rock University located near each other in Pennsylvania.  

The article, "Why does Clarion struggle while Slippery Rock soars?" explores the importance of location, differences in leadership and strategies pursued over several decades, and the impact of changing institutional fortunes on the communities where the institutions reside.
Schackner notes that Slippery Rock is one of two institutions in the Pennsylvania system of higher education with current enrollment larger than it was in 2010.  In contrast, enrollment at Clarion fell 29% over the past six years.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Colleges Serving Small Rural Towns

The Atlantic posted an article by Alana Semuels on May 2, 2017, "Could Small-Town Harvards Revive Rural Economies?"  Semuels initially lays out the argument that rural college towns are generally better off economically than similar communities without colleges.  

Semuels then references a couple of relatively recent articles where the authors offered ideas for expanding higher education outside urban areas.  In the first, Russ Douthat's "Break Up the Liberal City," was published in the New York Times on March 25, 2017 and he proposes, among other things, a tax on endowments of wealthy universities and incentives designed to encourage them to build satellite campuses in areas with well-below-the-median average income.  Noah Smith of Bloomberg followed a week later on March 30, 2017 with "Colleges Can Sport a Rust Belt Revival."  Smith cites the two Morill Acts in 1862 and 1890 as successful precedents for government intervention in support of new institutions, though he ultimately argues we should strengthen existing institutions rather than a focus on startups.

Semuels then turns her focus on four representative communities and offers brief descriptions of the degree to which relatively young institutions within those towns appear to be succeeding in fulfilling their unique missions.  Ultimately, her reporting suggests that new colleges or branches of existing institutions are hard to establish and their success certainly isn't guaranteed.  


City of Learners: Post-Secondary Collaboration in Edmonton

The Conference Board of Canada posted a study of a collaboration in Edmonton, Alberta known as the Edmonton Coalition of Post-Secondary Institutions where the six member colleges and universities are working to promote their city as a learning center.  Elizabeth Martin" serves as the author of "The City of Learners: Post-Secondary Collaboration in Edmonton, Alberta."

Martin's paper identifies promoting economic diversification, improving access to higher education programs, and marketing Edmonton as a learning destination as major Coalition goals.  She organizes the study by including the processes followed by the members, benefits and examples of Coalition initiatives, and factors contributing to success.  The paper concludes with Martin's summary of challenges facing the group and lessons they have learned.

Member institutions include Concordia University of Edmonton, The King's University, MacEwan University, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, NorQuest College, and the University of Alberta.