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Community Colleges, Rural Schools Partner to Boost College Readiness

Teachers in five rural eastern Washington school districts will receive help preparing their students for college through a new partnership between the districts and local community colleges, according to the Pacific Northwest Inlander.

Community Colleges of Spokane, a network of two community colleges and six rural education sites, will send faculty members to work with teachers in local rural districts and help those teachers identify and teach struggling students. The partnership aims to boost college-readiness so more students will be successful in college. Officials involved with the program say it could also boost the number of students who are able to enroll in dual-enrollment courses and earn college credit while still in high school.

Rural students tend to lag their urban peers when it comes to college enrollment and persistence. They are also less likely to attend four-year, private, or selective colleges. A 2015 study of rural Pennsylvania students suggested that students in non-rural schools have access to more resources, which boosts college enrollment and persistence. The study cited research that has found certain aspects of high school, such as a "sense of school valuing and belonging" and student-teacher ratios, can influence college aspirations among rural students. 

A 2013 study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that there are other variables that could impact college enrollment among rural communities, such as the income level of students at those schools. Students at high-income rural schools, for example, are more likely to attend college than their peers at low-income rural schools, and are also more likely to continue on to their second year of college.

Colleges and universities in other states have also tried to combat low enrollment among rural students. The Carolina College Advising Corps, which is run by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sends advisers to rural school districts to help students with financial aid, college applications, and organize college field trips. Utah and Colorado have recently launched or expanded dual-enrollment programs in the hopes that students will be will be more likely to enroll in and persist in a higher education program.

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