Our Work

Rural Engagement for Resilient Communities

APLU Impact

  • APLU members are working in partnership with rural communities across North America to improve educational options, economic vitality, and quality of life.

  • APLU is supporting members’ efforts to close the digital divide; build capacity for rural community and economic development; engage rural students; and connect Cooperative Extension and campus engagement offices to rural communities.

APLU members are working with rural communities across North America to improve educational options, economic vitality, and quality of life. Land-grant universities, in particular, deliver trusted, science-based information and educational programs for individuals, families, and communities through their Cooperative Extension efforts. This includes, but is not limited to: farmers; youth; community and faith leaders; elected officials; entrepreneurs; and lifelong learners. Extension offices have educators that live and work in every county and parish in every state, U.S. territory, and Puerto Rico, and maintain a national online presence.

APLU recognizes the importance of university programs to the vitality and resilience of rural communities. We aim to support university leaders working in rural communities by communicating the impact of rural engagement, providing peer learning opportunities for engagement and Extension leaders, advocating for funding that supports rural community engagement, and developing opportunities to develop and test new programs and approaches.

APLU’s Office of Economic Development and Community Engagement is working closely with APLU’s Office of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources to advance member work in rural communities.

There is no question that rural residents and businesses need access to high-speed internet serviceImage of report cover.. One could argue that the rural challenges of long distances, low population, and business density make access to high-speed internet and digital services even more important than in areas in which the doctor, the grocery store, or a helpful neighbor are a short walk or drive away.

But these same challenges of distance and density also make it difficult for the private sector to offer high speed internet services in rural areas. This paper describes the important roles that APLU members—including Cooperative Extension Service—can and do play in improving digital inclusion for rural areas and proposes a project to support universities in closing the digital divide.

Read how APLU is leading the charge amongst Public Research Universities Advancing Digital Inclusion.

[Many rural communities still lack access to high-speed internet service. Yet for broadband to have a powerful impact, rural communities need effective planning as well as widespread awareness, adoption, and use of digital tools at home, in businesses, and on farms. Implementation of broadband holds the promise of boosting agricultural productivity and rural prosperity.

With support from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, APLU hosted a virtual conference exploring the intersection of the economic impact of broadband in rural communities and smart agriculture applications of broadband. This Jan 27th conference convened university, Extension, agriculture, economic development, and rural community leaders for the first of two conference on these issues. Available resources include:

APLU will continue to highlight the work of public universities and identifying unanswered questions to advance the state of knowledge on rural broadband issues. The association will work with researchers, extension professionals, and other stakeholders to examine the potential impact of broadband on farms through smart agriculture applications. APLU will also explore potential spillover effects of farm broadband adoption in areas such as education, manufacturing, and non-farm businesses.

APLU is excited to provide a new monthly forum for those who are working in and/or are interested in supporting rural communities. Members of the forum will exchange best practices, engage philanthropic, private sector, and government funders, and more.

Learn more about the Learning Exchange Forum: Rural Engagement for Resilient Communities today!

This interactive conference featured presentations on papers meant to inform deliberations over how to structure, monitor, and evaluate the new suite of internet access and adoption programs made available by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and other federal funding programs. The papers presented in the conference will appear in a special issue of the peer-review journal Choices. This opportunity was made possible due to funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Recorded Conference Materials:
Investments in Digital Literacy
Data and Analysis to Inform Policy Recommendations
Data and Methods to Support Broadband Program Evaluation
Federal-State Policy and Funding Interaction
Labor Market Effects and Response
Rural Broadband Business Models

Featured Project & Initiative

The Data Literacy Institute – a partnership between APLU and the Association for Institutional Research with funding from Ascendium – brings together cross-departmental teams from 11 Powered by Publics institutions from Cluster 14 to engage in training that enhance their use of data to improve equitable student outcomes. In May 2022, Powered by Publics held […]

Featured Publication

2022 APLU Annual Report