Public Purpose Magazine, Summer 2009
Public Purpose Cover Summer 2009

The Engaged Urban UniversityBy Stephen G. Pelletier
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 StudentsBy Michelle R. Davis

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 2009By Daniel J. Hurley

Maria 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 CityBy Ruth Person

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.