Rural Community Colleges as defined in the 2013 Farm Bill


No Federal programs (grants, loans, etc.) specifically state or are targeted to RURAL COMMUNITY AND TECHNICAL 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)HOTLINK, 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 (see below).


CONTEXT FOR RURAL CCS IN 2013 FARM BILL: In the next three years, RCCA pledges to work to help federal officials include authorizing language in the next USDA authorization bill (commonly referred to as the Farm Bill) that specifically mentions rural community colleges. RCCA seeks to influence the innovative use of existing programs and funds to directly impact students, businesses and the communities they serve. By inserting specific language defining rural community colleges within existing programs, carve outs can be accomplished within existing programs such as Community Facilities within USDA’s Rural Development. At the RCCA’s 2013 “Day on the Hill” meeting with U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma), Rep. Lucas invited RCCA to submit language formally defining rural community colleges for insertion into the 2013 Farm Bill. Below is the language submitted to Rep. Lucas on behalf of RCCA:


PURPOSE: This act will support workforce training programs at rural-serving community colleges to promote public health, safety, and business and industry development, to improve economic opportunities and the quality of life for rural Americans.


DEFINITIONS: Grants under this program will be for rural community, junior, and technical colleges using the geographically-based definition of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s 2010 Basic Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which includes publicly-controlled two-year “Associate’s Colleges.” Since 1973, the Carnegie Foundation has classified all U.S. institutions of higher education (including U.S. Trust Territories); the Carnegie Classifications are embedded in all federal education data sets:


  1. “Associate’s Colleges” shall be defined to include publicly-controlled institutions that (a) award the associate’s degree as their highest degree or (b) if bachelor’s degrees accounted for less than 10 percent of all undergraduate degrees they award according to 2008-2009 degree conferrals as reported in USED/NCES/IPEDS.
  2. “Rural-serving community colleges” shall be defined to include Associate’s Colleges: physically located in areas other than the Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas (PMSAs) or Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), respectively, with populations exceeding 500,000 people according to the 2010 Census. Institutions in PMSAs or MSAs with a lower total population, or not in a PMSA or MSA, are classified by the Carnegie Foundation as rural-serving. This shall include the 2010 Carnegie Basic Classification of Associate’s Colleges defined as (a) “Rural-serving Small Colleges,” with full-year unduplicated headcount enrollment below 2,500 students; (b) “Rural-serving Medium Colleges,” with full-year unduplicated headcount enrollment between 2,500 and 7,500 students; (c) “Rural-Serving Large Colleges, with full-year unduplicated headcount enrollment above 7,500 students’ and (d) Two-Year Colleges Under Four-Year Universities


For more information, please contact the chair of the Rural Community College Alliance’s National Rural Scholar’s Panel, Dr. Stephen G. Katsinas, Director & Professor, Education Policy Center, The University of Alabama, at or 205-348-2470. For information about the Carnegie classifications, see the Carnegie Foundation.