The impact of America’s colleges and universities extends far beyond their campus boundaries. In addition to educating graduates who invest in and contribute to their communities, colleges and universities are anchor institutions in their cities, towns, and regions, contributing to the vibrancy and stability of their communities in ways big and small.
Here are a few things trustees—as advocates for higher education—should know:
Colleges and universities enrich their communities. Higher education institutions enhance the quality of life by providing residents with exceptional access to museums, library collections, distinguished speakers, sporting events, and world-class performances in the arts, dance, and theater. Especially in rural areas, campuses are often indispensable anchors for community life.
Colleges and universities serve their communities. Today’s colleges and universities regularly connect students, faculty, and staff with service projects that make an impact beyond their campus boundaries. In 2015 more than three million undergrads volunteered in their communities, reflecting a total of 286 million hours of service at a collective market value of almost $7 billion.
And, colleges and universities work to advance their communities. Institutions frequently partner with civic organizations, businesses, and government to address the most pressing challenges in their communities. For example, Indiana University is investing $300 million to address challenges that are critical to its state, including health equity, sustainable water resources, environmental and human protection from chemicals, and precision medicine. The nation’s land-grant institutions—a group of over 100 colleges and universities located in every state and U.S. territory—work to advance their communities through extension programs, which bring practical information to farmers, small business owners, consumers, families, and young people, particularly in rural areas. When talking with others about the value of higher education, it is easy to focus on the individual benefits. However, colleagues and universities make positive contributions to the communities in which they are located—something that should be shared widely in conversations within your own communities.