BRIDGES Rural Design Insights Part 2: Designing + Piloting a New Approach to Economic Agility in Rural Communities

Design Insights: An Education Design Lab publication series.

A rural revival is happening across America. That’s because rural communities have so much to offer, from a renewed focus on access to affordable, reliable broadband; to an increase in remote job opportunities; and, last but not least, access to gorgeous landscapes and scenery that cannot be paralleled. Despite their assets, there is a great deal of investment and attention still needed to help rural communities realize their full potential, and we believe community colleges have a role to play.

BRIDGES Rural is a multi-year initiative supported by Ascendium Education Group aimed at strengthening the capacity of rural community colleges to serve as critical economic growth engines for their learners and communities.

The Lab believes the process of designing these pilot programs – increasing knowledge, connections and understanding – will lead to institutional change and economic growth in these local communities, especially benefitting historically underserved learner-earners in rural areas.

In this brief, you’ll find:

+  5 pilots from rural community colleges in Idaho, New York, Maine and Ohio.

+  5 design insights that address access, flexibility, relevance and affordability.

+  5 critical questions to help your institution better meet learner and community needs.


The Lab is leading a cohort of 5 rural community colleges in a multi-year initiative to create new pathways to postsecondary attainment and economic opportunity in rural communities.

As the BRIDGES Rural pilots launch in the spring semester of 2022, institutions will continue to test and iterate on the models, ensuring they continue to support learner goals as well as increase access to jobs with family-sustaining wages. They will leverage the Lab’s community of practice space located on the Participate platform to continue to share what they are learning, as well as what resources will be needed for continued sustainability and scale of the pilots.

Follow our BRIDGES Rural work on Twitter: @eddesignlab #BRIDGESRural and @BRIDGESRural.

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