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Rural Matters

Jun 14, 2021

In Part II of this eight-part series on rural higher education and workforce development, produced in collaboration with and underwritten by Ascendium Education Group, Michelle chats with two thought leaders in education and two community college students: Meghan McCann, senior policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States; Desiree Jones-Smith. senior program manager with the College Excellence Program, where she co-leads the Aspen Prize and the Aspen Rural Community College Success Initiative; William Hendon. a Business Management student at Southern Crescent Technical College; and Matthew Vishino, who is seeking an Associate Degree in Marine Logistics at Western Kentucky Community College.  McCann discusses the very recent ECS report that focused on the motivations for pursuing and the perceived value of postsecondary education and training in rural areas.  In general, while there was a positive view of postsecondary education and training, rural respondents were skeptical about the value of postsecondary education, with the majority indicating that they were not likely to pursue further education in the next five years.  (For more information on the report, Perception of Postsecondary Education and Training in Rural Areas, visit Jones-Smith talks about the Aspen College Excellence Program’s  Rural Community College Success Initiative (RCCSI), which is learning from a network of rural community college leaders. That initiative, she says, is studying  the lived experiences of effective rural higher education leaders as they contribute to the success of their students and the rural community members that they live and work alongside. The RCCSI hopes to learn more about what strategies and tactics make a college successful in the rural context. Initial research suggests that many community college leaders realize that their rural and rural-serving institutions have real assets. Effective leaders have an opportunity to honor and support all of the  unique and varied identities and experiences within the rural communities that they serve. , she adds. (For more information, visit Vishino says he opted for attending a community college because of its ease of access and its lesser cost than four-yar universities. Hendon says that community college changed his life, from having to deal with dead-end jobs and being a mill worker to acquiring a “higher level of life” by smashing through the proverbial glass ceiling. This episode and the entire series on rural higher education and workforce development is sponsored by Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping learners from low-income backgrounds reach their educational and career goals. For more information, visit