Researchers and other stakeholders in the Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training field have made it clear that there is a critical need and strong desire for high-quality research to better understand rural learners and postsecondary institutions. There has been very little research focused on rural postsecondary education and the data that does exist is also very limited.
The field is now one step closer to answering key research questions about rural postsecondary institutions and the rural learner experience from enrollment to workforce entry. Ascendium, in partnership with Sova, has released a National Rural Postsecondary Research Agenda. The agenda focuses on generating research and knowledge that can help practitioners and policymakers remove systemic barriers faced by rural learners, particularly those from low-income backgrounds. It is our vision that the agenda will lay the groundwork for applied research collaborations that yield actionable insights for those studying and providing postsecondary education in rural areas of the U.S.
A diverse group of over 20 experts with personal and professional experience in rural postsecondary education worked closely to create the agenda. This broad base of participants brought many perspectives from the field. The result of their collaborative effort is an agenda that offers 16 guiding questions across four research areas.
“We applaud the partners who shared their time, insights and rural experiences to inform the creation of the research agenda,” said Amy Kerwin, vice president - education philanthropy. “Their hard work will set the stage for applied research projects that aim to answer key questions which will unlock insights that can lead to institutional transformation and increased understanding of how to support rural learners.”
In addition, Ascendium has funded two data infrastructure projects that we hope will guide subsequent research projects associated with the agenda, as well as any future research focused on rural postsecondary education. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Student Success Through Applied Research Lab is developing a mapping tool that identifies “rural located” institutions across the country. The Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges is also developing a definition and mapping tool describing “rural serving postsecondary institutions.” These tools are scheduled to be released Fall 2021.
Learn more about how the research agenda was developed and read the full research agenda.