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Rural Higher Ed Institutions Team Up to Boost Community Resilience and Economic Mobility for Rural Learners

The Education Design Lab has announced the launch of its new Rural College Design and Data Academy.

The academy comprises institutions based in rural areas throughout the nation that will work together to strengthen the capacity of rural colleges to design and implement new pathways to economic mobility for rural learners — and measure their success.

Dr. Leslie DaughertyDr. Leslie DaughertyThe education-to-workforce pipeline plays a critical role in rural communities across the country. However, rural-serving institutions often do not have the same access to state funding, infrastructure, and human resources as other institutions to provide innovative and responsive programs and supports for rural learners.

"Rural communities are often overlooked, facing limited resources and systemic barriers to success in education and work," said Dr. Leslie Daugherty, senior director of design programs at the Education Design Lab. "By harnessing the power of these emerging learning models, we're embarking on a journey to design more equitable and career-driven routes to economic agility for rural learners nationwide."

The lab will provide implementation grants of up to $50,000, funded by Ascendium Education Group. Underpinned by the learnings from the lab's Building Rural Innovation, Designing Educational Strategies (BRIDGES) Design Challenge, participating institutions will evaluate their program's impact on learners' education, employment, and economic outcomes using the lab's Data Collaborative for a Skills-Based Economy (Data Collab) infrastructure.

Participating Rural College Design and Data Academy institutions include Shasta College, California; Allegany College of Maryland, Maryland; Coahoma Community College, Mississippi; Crowder College, Missouri; Northern Pennsylvania RegionalCollege, Pennsylvania; Motlow State Community College, Tennessee; and Medical University of South Carolina + Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, South Carolina. Uintah Basin Technical College, Utah; Spokane Community College + Washington State University- Extension Ferry County, Washington; Bridge Valley Community and Technical College, West Virginia; and Northcentral Technical College, Wisconsin, round out the list of participants.

"Through our partnership with the Education Design Lab, we're not just envisioning a better future for rural learners – we're actively building it," said Dr. Jenni Martin, acting president of Spokane Community College. "The innovative models championed by the Lab encourage rural learners to pursue higher education options and pave the way for sustainable economic growth for rural communities."

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