The Rural Male in Higher Education
A new issue brief from ACCT examines how community college can improve educational and economic outcomes for rural men.
The U.S. economy continues to recover from the Great Recession in important ways; notably, the national unemployment rate has decreased from a high of 10 percent in late 2009 to 4 percent as of July 2018. However, a closer look reveals that most rural communities have not fully recovered. Lagging educational attainment—particularly among men—is a significant impediment to prosperity in rural communities. Community colleges are key players in reversing this trend but must help their male students overcome significant logistical, academic, and personal hurdles.
Rural community colleges face different challenges in student recruitment than urban or suburban community colleges do. Rural populations are more spread out, meaning that students often have farther to travel in order to get to campus. In this issue brief, we looked at what Hinds Community College in Mississippi and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) are doing to prepare rural men for jobs in growing fields.
One of the primary challenges institutions face in serving rural males is getting them to campuses. In rural communities, even outreach can be a challenge. LCTCS’s outreach starts with ensuring that rural campuses have the necessary funds to be able to first reach out to prospective students, then serve those who enroll. LCTCS’s outreach works primarily through social media, faith-based communities, and local newspapers that still have strong readership. LCTCS also worked with Country Music Television (CMT) to develop a partnership that uses recording artists to pitch the value of community colleges. CMT also matches LCTCS’s $500 scholarship awarded to students who enroll at a CMT event.
Hinds Community College is the largest community college in Mississippi with more than 12,000 students enrolled. The state capital of Jackson is located in its five-county district but about 75 percent of Hinds students live in rural areas. While unemployment is low in Mississippi, many jobs are low-skill. From 2012 to 2022, 57 percent of the jobs that need to be filled are middle-skill positions. Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (MI-BEST) is one the programs Hinds employs to support rural males towards postsecondary completion and a career. The program targets individuals who did not complete high school and puts them on a dual pathway to earn a General Education Diploma, or high school equivalency, and a workforce credential. Students are trained to be job-ready in six months.
For more information on the state of higher education for men in rural America and other programs at LCTCS and Hinds, check out the full report on our website.
Hear more about this topic from the paper’s author and LCTCS President Dr. Monty Sullivan in episode of our In the Know with ACCTpodcast.
United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Labor force statistics from the Current Population Survey: Unemployment rate. Retrieved from https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000