What would happen to cities if colleges disappeared?

Dive Brief:

  • The Chronicle profiles a history of colleges and universities as a driver of civic engagement, development and social construct, showcasing schools like Johns Hopkins University and the University of Wisconsin System as social experiment examples, moreso than industrial training ventures. 
  • Colleges have contributed vastly to the social improvement and ethnic tolerance of society, but in the effort to make them attractive places of human enlightenment and worthy of rising tuition costs, the race towards new buildings and amenities have pushed them to the verge of an industrial bubble burst. 
  • The offering of online degrees and the notion of unbundling valuable course content from general education courses requires that higher education shift dramatically away from its historic role as an Ivory tower, and more into a workforce development hub. 

Dive Insight:

The view of the town-gown relationship is largely based upon the function of large and elite institutions, but smaller colleges and universities are perhaps more important to smaller communities throughout the country, where they often function as the largest employer and civic attraction of these areas. 

Part of the equation of remaining relevant and valuable to citizens lies in what can be offered beyond the classroom in job preparation, volunteerism opportunities and community support. These are the areas in which college leaders must help students to find personal fulfillment, local governments to connect to workforce and support partnerships, faculty to find applied research interests, and to which citizens can give donations and send their children.