Strengthening Rural Community Colleges

By Laura Murrell
Director of Communications, Community College League of California

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Rural-serving colleges are critical to providing educational opportunities for their communities but face unique challenges when serving their students. Their service area is large, yet they rarely have the economies of scale that their urban counterparts have.

In order to shed light on these colleges, the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) has released Strengthening Rural Community Colleges, a new report that details the needs and challenges of rural community colleges throughout the U.S., including some of our very own California Community Colleges. To read the report, click here.


According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are over 260 rural community colleges in the United States which educate nearly 670,000 students a year. Rural community colleges provide a number of vital functions. In addition to offering educational opportunities and vocational training, many represent the largest employer in their communities. In order to best serve these colleges and their students, it is critical that we understand their successes and their challenges and develop policy solutions to support rural institutions and their communities in achieving academic and economic prosperity (ACCT).

California’s rural-serving community colleges

Only 13 California Community College campuses meet the federal definition of “rural,” which limits access to grants and other funding. One key point of discussion has been the need to expand the definition and improve the accuracy of the campus data used to determine “rural” at the federal level.

In January 2020, the Community College League of California (League), in partnership with ACCT, hosted a convening in Chico for rural community college CEOs, trustees, local government officials, and K-12 partners to discuss the various challenges and opportunities they face and potential ways to fix them. The discussion covered issues such as broadband network access limitations in areas surrounding the campus, student housing insecurity on-and off-campus and childcare access for student parents.

Where do we go from here

The League will continue to support California’s rural-serving community colleges and find solutions to their unique challenges. We are committed to partnering with ACCT on this work and are proud of the report that they have produced to support our colleges.


Laura Murrell is the Director of Communications for the Community College League of California.