Challenges for Rural Community Colleges

Oct 19, 2021 by

Rural communities continue to contend with poverty, low health outcomes, and access issues on top of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, rural community colleges and their administrators grapple with how best to support these residents and to help its students excel.

Reducing these challenges is one of the missions of Achieving the Dream, which has created an initiative called Building Resiliency in Rural Communities for the Future of Work to boost the outcomes of students from those areas. Seven community colleges across the U.S. have been selected to lead the charge through digital skill building. In addition, Kloman, Kim, Plancher, Nael, and Silvestri (2020) conducted 50 interviews with rural education and workforce experts across the nation to gather insights and stories to help community colleges build successful workforce partnerships.

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) also released a new report titled, “Strengthening Rural Community Colleges: Innovations and Opportunities” to better understand the role that community colleges play by studying community colleges in five states including North Carolina, Texas, California, Kentucky, and Iowa and six tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) in Montana and North Dakota.

However, recruiting competent candidates to lead community colleges can be challenging as salaries for administrators in rural areas are often not competitive when compared to their urban counterparts (Aylett, Kacirek, & Grover, 2021). Chen explains the shortage and questions the future of community college leadership by evaluating a new report from the Aspen Institute that finds more than 40 percent of current community college presidents are likely to retire over the next five years. Aylett (2019) used a case study designed to explore the influencers of succession planning and how rural community college leaders identify and develop future leaders.


Are rural community colleges and their administrators undervalued? How will rural community colleges fill administrative vacancies?


Rural, community college, leadership


Aylett, A., Kacirek, K., & Grover, K. (2021). Succession planning in rural community colleges. In M. Miller, & G. Gearhart (Ed.), Handbook of Research on the Changing Role of College and University Leadership (pp. 285-295). IGI Global. http://doi:10.4018/978-1-7998-6560-5.ch018

Aylett, A. (2019). Influencers of succession planning among rural community college chief executives. Graduate Theses and Dissertations Retrieved from

Kloman, S.S., Kim, H., Plancher, A.K., Nael, M. and Silvestri, M. (2020). Improving workforce outcomes for rural community college students. Social Finance. Retrieved from

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