“Opening Doors They Alone Open”


The Rural Community College Alliance (RCCA) is the primary advocacy organization for America’s 600 rural community and tribal colleges and 3.4 million students. The RCCA promotes a more economically, culturally, and civically vibrant rural America, through advocacy, convening, leveraging resources, and serving as a clearing house for innovative practice, policy, and research.


Our Core Values


  1. Intentionally rural focused (rural community and tribal colleges are place-based institutions).
  2. Integrity – adhering to moral and ethical principles.
  3. Inclusiveness – respecting all voices, celebrating diversity and commonalities of communities and regions, states, and nations
  4. Validity – decisions based on a culture of evidence relevant to rural America.
  5. Professionalism – promoting collegial relationships and collaborative partnerships.


Our Mission


The Rural Community College Alliance advances rural America through an active program of advocacy, convening stakeholders, leveraging resources, and as a clearinghouse for best practices and research. America’s 600 rural community and tribal colleges provide opportunities in place, celebrating doors they alone open. They open doors, change lives, and lift rural America.


At present, there are no federal programs that specifically cite rural community colleges in statute. Addressing the invisibility of rural community colleges in policymaking circles is a major reason for our organization to exist.


The contributions of community colleges to rural America has only been studied in depth over the past two decades. According to the 2010 Carnegie Basic Classification, 64% of all public two-year colleges serve rural communities. These institutions serve about 37% of all U.S. community college enrollments nationwide.


Our Vision


We are the membership organization acknowledged as the leading voice for rural community colleges.


No Federal programs (grants, loans, etc.) specifically state or are targeted to rural and technical community colleges. Federal agencies today rely on the U.S. Department of Education’s “urbanicity” definition of community colleges, which groups rural with suburban and urban colleges. This is on top of existing statute-based definitions of rural communities within programs of the leading Federal agency charged with spurring regional rural innovation and economic and community development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture. RCCA’s agenda thus begins with the development of a Memorandum of Understanding with USDA/Rural Development (2012), and advocacy of the use of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s 2010 Basic Classification of Associate’s Colleges, to geographically define community colleges.


Strategic Goals


  1. Advocate appropriate authorizing language for rural community colleges in USDA programs.
  2. Encourage use of language to create “carve outs” within existing programs and funding streams.
  3. To directly impact the 3.4 million students, businesses, and communities served by the nation’s 600 rural community and tribal colleges.
  4. To convene stakeholders & leverage collective resources.
  5. To serve as a clearinghouse for best practices and research.


New Opportunities


  • New USDA partnerships with community colleges on Poverty Zones.
  • Hope Zones proposed by President Obama in the 2013 State of the Union Address.


What does this mean? The Rural Community College Alliance helps its member public community and tribal colleges serve the 89.3 million people who reside in rural America. Our nation’s 600 community and tribal colleges serve more than 3.5 million students at more than 800 sites. They deliver general education for Associate’s Degrees for transfer, short-term non-credit workforce training for currently employed and dislocated workers, and for-credit first-certificate and Associate’s Degree programs of 18 to 24 months in length in technical areas that include nursing, engineering technology, allied health, and manufacturing technology tied to local and regional employer needs. They deliver non-credit computer literacy and proudly serve as regional cultural centers for the fine arts. With hospitals, they are rural America’s most important regional intermediaries for sustainable development. Strong, viable rural community and tribal colleges help to create strong, vibrant, innovative rural communities and regions.


Our Partners

We are a proud partner of The National Rural Education Association.