Why a new research group wants to bust regional college myths

by Joseph K. Clark

In Kevin McClure’s view, the public often only hears about regional colleges when disaster strikes.  These colleges serve a broad contingent of students. Yet, they generally have fewer resources than their flagship and research counterparts and get little attention in the postsecondary landscape, says McClure, a higher education professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, one such institution.

To undo misconceptions and elevate these colleges’ profiles, McClure and several like-minded academics devised the Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges. The collaborative seeks to emphasize the importance of these schools, public and private, through academic study.

regional college myths

They got around $125,000 in grant money from the Joyce Foundation before their public launch this month and plan to publish an inaugural report next week.  Higher Ed Dive discussed what the research group hopes to accomplish with McClure and some of the myths surrounding regional colleges.  Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

HIGHER ED DIVE: What was the impetus for the new alliance?

KEVIN MCCLURE: The four of us worked to build up an understanding of regional colleges, given that the sector has traditionally been overlooked. We have been bothered by the persistence of short writing and thinking about regional colleges. We have frequently looked for opportunities to cast off those framings and take a more explicitly appreciative approach to understand these institutions’ contributions. That doesn’t mean ignoring their challenges, but it does mean not being preoccupied with them.

But we weren’t doing anything in a coordinated way. Even though we are in a pandemic and not necessarily in a great position to launch something new, we saw this as something we couldn’t pass up, an opportunity to accomplish something bigger and bolder.

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