April 12, 2023

New Guide for Regional Comprehensive Universities Provides a Blueprint for Growth and Financial Sustainability by Meeting the Needs of Local Communities

American Association of State Colleges and Universities releases “Stewardship of Place” practitioner’s guide, documenting success of public institutions that are driving regional economic development and building thriving communities

Kellee Edmonds
(202) 478-4662

WASHINGTON, APRIL 12, 2023— The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), which represents 350 public colleges, universities, and systems throughout the U.S., today released a new guide that provides recommendations to help regional comprehensive institutions chart paths to sustainability and impact through a focus on stewardship of place. A companion to the 2022 report “Recommitting to Stewardship of Place” rooted in the frontline experiences of regional comprehensive universities, the practitioner’s guide offers a blueprint for how colleges and universities can support greater civic engagement, drive a regional economic return on investment, and build thriving communities.

“In today’s challenging environment for public higher education, the most successful, vibrant institutions are often those that maintain the strongest connection to—and engagement with—the diverse communities surrounding their campuses,” said Mildred García, president of AASCU. “The imperative to connect our impact to everchanging community needs is as urgent as ever as institutions combat resource disparities, enrollment fluctuations, and the continued impacts of COVID-19’s disruptions on public higher education. Given these new challenges, stewardship of place and community requires a new sort of leadership, agility, and fresh thinking. That’s what this guide is designed to share with the field.”

The release of the new guide comes at a time when public colleges and universities continue to confront an array of challenges. While national undergraduate enrollment has begun to stabilize over the past year, many colleges and universities across the country continue to grapple with declines in student enrollment and financial volatility as a result of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Against that backdrop, the new guide outlines three key strategic priorities for regional comprehensive universities to support the validity of local communities: upward mobility, resources and resilience, and regional prosperity and civic health. The new publication offers several measures for effective implementation of regional stewardship using case studies of eight regional universities that have increased their impact and growth by more tightly linking curriculum, programming and partnerships to the needs of surrounding their diverse communities.

“More than 20 years ago, the notion of public institutions as ‘stewards of place’ was a clarion call for colleges and universities that were quietly doing the critical work of educating, serving and enriching communities, sometimes with scant recognition. The 2002 report left a profound impact on regional colleges—and also reshaped the public’s understanding of the connection between regional comprehensive universities and the communities where they are co-located,” said Mark A. Nook, president of the University of Northern Iowa and a member of AASCU’s Stewards of Place Presidential Task Force. “This research provides practical recommendations for institutions as they work to evolve and keep up with political, economic, demographic and societal changes.” 

The practitioner’s guide was informed by a presidential task force of 10 current and former presidents of AASCU member institutions, including:

  • Mildred García, president of AASCU (Co-Chair)
  • Ashish Vaidya AASCU Senior Fellow (Co-Chair) 
  • Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of San José State University (CA)
  • Kelli R. Brown, president of Western Carolina University (NC)
  • Berenecea Johnson Eanes, president of City University of New York, York College
  • Jonathan GS Koppell, president of Montclair State University (NJ)
  • Mark A. Nook, president of the University of Northern Iowa
  • Kirk A. Nooks, president of Gordon State College (GA)
  • Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, president of Oakland University (MI)
  • Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University

To read more on the practitioner’s guide and its case studies and findings, visit: https://aascu.org/resources/a-call-to-action-translating-the-spirit-of-stewardship-of-place-into-practice/


About AASCU: The  American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of 350 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise.