Rural Community College Alliance

Creating opportunities in place.


America’s 600 publicly controlled rural community and tribal colleges celebrate doors that they alone open.

They provide access to general education for transfer; for-credit technical, vocational and occupational programs of 12 months to two years in duration that lead to high-skill, high wage jobs; workforce training for recent high school graduates, recent high school dropouts, currently employed workers, and the long-term unemployed; and they provide community services, serving as regional cultural centers for the performing and fine arts.

Rural community and tribal colleges are centers of educational opportunity. They are the “neighborhood schools of higher education,” as noted community college scholar James C. Palmer has said. They are close to home and both representative and inclusive of their communities. They are the leading regional centers for cultural and fine arts in rural America—and this is particularly true at tribal colleges, which typically host key tribal historical documents and artifacts.

They are open-door, open access colleges that welcome all who desire to learn, regardless of wealth, heritage, or prior academic preparation or experience. They serve 3.4 million students at 600 colleges and 800 campuses, and are the fastest growing sector of U.S. community colleges.


We represent:






Our priorities.

The Rural Community College Alliance (RCCA) helps its member instutitions serve the 89.3 million people who reside in rural America. We seek to promote a more economically, culturally, and civically vibrant rural America through advocacy, convening, leveraging resources, and serving as a clearinghouse for innovative practice, policy, and research.



Rural community colleges have a unique capacity to build and sustain better places to live, learn, work, and grow. RCCA seeks formal recognition – in federal and state policies and practices – of the significant role community colleges play in workforce training and community economic development, as well as the unique challenges they face.

Learn more: “What is rural America?”

Community College Funding

Recent decades have seen a precipitous decline in state funding for community colleges, leaving students and taxpayers to shoulder the cost through tuition increases and higher local property taxes, respectively. This hits rural institutions especially hard, since they serve less dense and typically less affluent populations. On top of that, community colleges are specifically excluded from federal impact aid programs, which would provide compensation for income they cannot collect by assessing local property taxes on federal lands.

RCCA fights for increased state support and federal impact aid for community colleges. We also help our members find new funding sources.

Pell grants

Pell Grants open the doors of opportunities for all community college students, and particularly for students attending rural community and tribal colleges. RCCA sponsors research on the impact of changes to Pell funding, including the dramatic restrictions enacted in 2012 which led to deep cuts to enrollments and subsequent graduation rates. Our advocacy has contributed to the recent expansions of the Pell program.


There was—and still is—no doubt in my mind that education represents nothing less than a doorway to personal fulfillment, social justice, true freedom and actual equality among all Americans.
— Carl A. Elliott