WCE’s Kevin McClure Receives Joyce Foundation Grant for Study on How Covid-19 Impacts Rural Colleges

Kevin McClure, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at UNCW’s Watson College of Education, has received a grant through the Joyce Foundation for a program titled “Federal Support for Broadly Accessible Rural-Serving Institutions in Response to Covid-19.” Funds totaling $101,000 will support a six-month collaborative effort to understand how budget cuts might impact rural student access and attainment at public universities and to identify federal policy recommendations.

“The pandemic has created enormous challenges across higher education, and the effects won’t be evenly distributed,” McClure said. “Broad access institutions often have fewer resources to weather budget cuts, yet they are incredibly important to college access, degree completion, and public health infrastructure. We want to use data to show those contributions and make the case that now is the time for investment.”

Cecilia Orphan, assistant professor at the University of Denver, Andrew Koricich, associate professor at Appalachian State University and Alisa Hicklin Fryar, associate professor at The University of Oklahoma are co-collaborators on the project.

The scholars will examine admissions, enrollment and degree attainment trends, assess the contributions rural institutions make to regional workforce development, and analyze how government funding impacts equity, access and degree attainment metrics. To do this, the team will review trends over time, assess funding reductions/impacts that occurred during the last recession, and use panel data analysis to model future projections based on budget reduction scenarios that could result from Covid-19.

Project deliverables include the creation of a novel dataset desegregated by race, income, region and field of study; development of institutional profiles and case studies; and development of an interactive website that will enable users to view trends and projections based on the variables studied. The scholars will use this data to develop federal policy recommendations advocating for continued support for rural institutions in an effort to mitigate adverse impacts on equity, access and degree attainment likely to occur in an environment of reduced funding.

The grant also provides seed money for the creation of the Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges (ARRC). The team envisions ARRC as a multi-year research initiative involving several grant-funded projects designed to advance understanding of regional colleges, including those in rural areas.

Work on the project will get underway in June with a targeted completion date of December 2020.