The Engaged Urban University
In distinctive ways appropriate to their unique missions and contexts, urban public universities broadly engage in their communities as a function of regional stewardship.
Collaboration Between Universities and Community Colleges Offer New Educational Opportunities for Students
Driving along the highway in west central Michigan, a prospective
college student might be intrigued by a roadside billboard with the
Ferris State University flame logo. But the same billboard might also
feature the logo of a local community college.
That’s because Ferris State has embarked on a partnership with many
of the community colleges in that area of Michigan. Those partnerships
take a number of forms, including shared faculty and educational space
to agreements that make it easy for students who have earned associate
degrees at two-year institutions to transfer to Ferris State as juniors.
Often, those students don’t even need to leave their community college
campuses to earn their bachelor’s degree from Ferris State.
While this cooperation between four-year and two-year institutions
may take many forms, the universal goal is the same, says Ferris State
University President David L. Eisler. “Our mission is to provide access
to a bachelor’s degree,” Eisler says. “By opening it up to those who
wouldn’t be able to receive this education any other way, we’re
furthering that mission.”
Across the country, four-year colleges and universities are looking
at ways to partner with community colleges. Some of the reasons are
economic; others, as in the case of Ferris State, serve to further a
mission. But often the reasons just make good business sense.
“We don’t have the capital costs of additional satellite locations
and community colleges give us favorable rental rates,” Eisler says. “We
benefit and they benefit.”
Access Denied:Access Denied: Undocumented Students and Policy Reform in 2009
is a high school senior with an outstanding GPA and good SAT scores.
Her inventory of academic accomplishments and civic contributions is
well stocked and includes roles in student government and volunteering
as an after-hours math tutor: all assets that would seem to set the
affable 18-year-old on a path toward achieving her long held aspiration
to attend college and become a pediatric nurse. Maria expresses her
happiness and gives her full support to her friends and classmates as
they make plans for fall arrival on college campuses across her state.
Her external well wishes, however, are tempered by her own internal
sorrow; Maria will be staying home this fall, unable to afford the
considerably higher—but legally required—out-of-state tuition prices at
the public college she had hoped to attend, a result of her being
brought to the U.S. illegally by her parents at age four.
Maria’s story is among an untold number, in which undocumented
college student aspirants are either barred from attending or are
prevented from doing so due to the increased financial barriers that
come with “undocumented” status. Their stories reflect a “cancer of
hopelessness,” as one Colorado legislator describes it, among young
adults with much ambition and aptitude, but little hope, who face the
prospect of a life consigned to working menial jobs, and are destined to
a permanent underclass.
Free access to public kindergarten through high school is provided
to children who are in the country illegally, an entitlement affirmed in
a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe. Federal law with
respect to postsecondary education, however, is less clear. The Illegal
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 prohibits
states from providing a “postsecondary education benefit” to
undocumented students that is not also offered to any other U.S.
citizens, regardless of their residency in a given state. This provision
is central to the debate over postsecondary education access for
undocumented students, specifically whether they can be eligible to
receive in-state, resident tuition rates.
In order to facilitate the college aspirations of motivated and
academically high-achieving immigrant students, California lawmakers
passed legislation in 2001 providing for in-state tuition rates for
undocumented students. The stipulations: eligible students must graduate
from and have attended a California high school for at least three
years and sign an affidavit indicating their intent to gain permanent
legal residency. Since then, nine other states have passed similar
legislation: Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma,
Texas, Utah and Washington.
Endsights:The Academy as Neighbor: The Role of the University in Revitalizing the City
A significant number of AASCU institutions are located in cities both
large and small. Undoubtedly, in the past decade many of these
institutions have been called upon to play a part in revitalizing their
“hometowns.” Given the current economic climate, the demand for greater
involvement in this endeavor is likely to increase substantially as
cities struggle to confront job losses, company closings and property
abandonment. Having spent nine years as chancellor at Indiana University
Kokomo (home to four Chrysler plants and a significant Delphi
presence), and now nearly a year at the University of Michigan-Flint
(once home to 80,000 GM employees and now home to less than 8,000), I am
in a somewhat unique position to view town-gown revitalization issues.
There are many roles a campus can play in revitalization. First,
any campus is, by definition, an economic engine for the area it calls
home—as a purchaser of goods and services often with great buying power,
as an attraction for visitors, and as a generator of student and
employer purchasing as these groups shop, dine and consume local
entertainment. Second, many campuses provide economic development
expertise through faculty research and service, and offer opportunities
to engage businesses with student projects and other means of helping to
spark new ideas and generate improved business planning and
development. Third, as public institutions, our campuses can (and do)
serve as conveners—neutral places where debates over the topics that
relate to revitalization can take place, often with assistance from
faculty or staff who are experienced facilitators. While revitalization
seems to be a topic on which everyone can agree in principle, there are
often major issues buried beneath that topic that can spark controversy.
For example, the “shrink the city’s footprint” discussion currently
taking place in some locales (including Flint) is fraught with
controversy (e.g., “it’s a great idea to be able to provide fire and
police protection to a smaller footprint, but not if it means that my
house gets demolished in the process”). A campus could play a major role
in bringing all parties to the table for discussion around this or
another issue without taking sides.