Education Design Lab, a national nonprofit and leader in the design, implementation, and scaling of new learning models for higher education and the future of work, today announced the selection of five rural community colleges who will form the inaugural cohort of its Building Rural Innovation, Designing Educational Strategies (BRIDGES) initiative. The participating colleges are the College of Eastern Idaho (Idaho Falls, Idaho), Eastern Maine Community College (Bangor, Maine), Finger Lakes Community College (Canandaigua, N.Y.), Washington State Community College (Marietta, Ohio), and Zane State Community College (Zanesville, Ohio).
“The state of Maine has one of the highest percentages of rural residents in the country, and community colleges represent the backbone of the workforce development infrastructure we have in place for rural residents seeking economic opportunity,” said David Daigler, Maine Community College System President. “The expertise and resources made available through this national effort will help our campuses to create new credentials and pathways that are visible and responsive to the needs of local employers.”
Selected through a national search and invitation-only RFP and funded with support from a $1.9 million grant from Ascendium Education Group, the colleges will work with Education Design Lab over the next three years to design, test, and scale post-secondary approaches that support the economic agility of rural learners and build the capacity of rural community colleges to be drivers of economic growth in their communities.
“This work is about enabling rural community colleges to create innovative approaches focused on the value that these institutions and communities bring to their learners—unlocking greater greater economic opportunity and agility for the populations they serve,” said Kathleen deLaski, founder and CEO of Education Design Lab. “These five community colleges bring a diverse group of core team members to the table, from large national employers, to local chambers and small business development teams. The learnings from this first cohort will pave the way for other rural institutions as they look at building upon the strengths of their communities.”
At the conclusion of the design challenge, the five colleges will pilot new approaches focused on building the capacity of rural community colleges to respond to the needs of students and the unique rural and remote regions they serve. The Education Design Lab will draw on insights from the collective experiences of the rural community college partners to publish a brief that articulates the evolving needs of the rural learner population and showcases exemplar models that bring economic opportunity to rural communities.
“Ascendium is pleased to support the five participating partner colleges in the BRIDGES initiative that are embracing creative approaches to serving rural learners by learning and leading together,” Danielle Vetter, senior program officer at Ascendium. “Over the next three years, this collaboration will surface new insights into innovative models with the potential to revitalize rural economies, prepare rural learners for success in high-demand fields and strengthen the communities served by this cohort.”