Biden-Harris Administration Grants $44.5 Million to Enhance Higher Education Opportunities for Rural Students

The Biden-Harris Administration today announced $44.5 million in grants to 22 higher education institutions. The grants aim to improve rates of enrollment, persistence, and completion among students in rural communities. The Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development (RPED) grant program promotes the development of high-quality career pathways aligned to high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand industry sectors and occupations in the region.

In rural communities across America, only 29% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 are enrolled in higher education. This is in comparison to almost 48% of their peers in urban areas and 42% in suburban areas. Students in rural areas face various barriers in accessing and completing college, including reliable transportation, food and housing insecurity, and access to health care and high-speed internet. They also have to navigate the challenges of paying for college and the application process.

“The grants announced today by the Biden-Harris administration reflect our commitment to empowering rural communities. We aim to build on their strengths, attract new investments, and prepare students for the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. He added, “When we invest in postsecondary attainment in rural communities, we create pathways for students to find rewarding careers without having to leave their hometowns. These grants will help rural institutions raise the bar for student success and the attainment of valuable degrees and credentials.”

The announcement is part of the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Department of Education’s commitment to providing career pathways and higher education opportunities to students in rural America. The funding also supports efforts to strengthen the transition from two-year to four-year institutions. Applicants for the RPED grant program were encouraged to provide programs and implement strategies that support community college students’ transition to a four-year institution and that include partnerships that support career pathways for students.

The 2023 List of Grantees:


  • Athens State University will use instructional technology, comprehensive student support, and educational outreach strategies to provide rural students with flexible and accessible learning opportunities. The goal is to help them succeed in postsecondary education and high-paying careers. ($2,209,424)


  • Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona State University will provide college and career awareness and planning activities, increased access to college courses, and summer learning programs. These programs aim to involve real-world project-based learning. ($2,227,498)
  • Graham County Community College District will implement an early College Program for high school students, create a Career Service Center, and enhance rural school outreach for 8th-12th graders. ($2,197,555)


  • College Bridge will provide students and educators access to college knowledge and information about workforce needs. ($2,196,928)


  • Board of Trustees of Western Illinois University will improve college readiness and access through coordination with rural Local Education Agencies. They will also implement evidence-based and culturally relevant pedagogies and programming. Other initiatives include improving support for incoming freshmen transitioning from rural high schools, developing a persistence program, and enhancing academic career pathways. ($2,211,294)
  • Northern Illinois University will employ collective impact across community partners for workforce development. They will also create comprehensive student support systems and implement career pathways. ($2,105,846)


  • Big Sandy Community and Technical College will restructure its student advising structure to effectively support students in navigating their chosen pathways. ($1,800,000)
  • Elizabethtown Community and Technical College will work to increase education, awareness, and engagement among learners about the diverse and promising career pathways available in advanced manufacturing. ($1,900,000)
  • Hazard Community and Technical College will implement a secondary to post-secondary transition program for high school students. This includes Dual Credit Hubs, access to credit-bearing courses, and support services for online students. ($2,227,000)
  • Morehead State University will assist high school students with college enrollment and provide internships and career opportunities to postsecondary students. ($2,218,048)

New Mexico

  • The University of New Mexico-Valencia will facilitate early college camps, provide non-academic support services, revitalize career and technical education programs, and establish outreach to local industry. ($2,218,830)

New York

  • The Research Foundation of SUNY at Alfred will prepare students for high-demand jobs through partnerships, dual and early enrollment activities, and career development projects. ($2,040,230)
  • North Carolina

    • Appalachian State University will provide individualized college and career transition programs to underserved students in rural North Carolina. This includes students from families with low incomes and students of color. ($2,227,500)
    • McDowell Technical Community College will create a network of regional adult success coaches and student support systems. They will also improve professional learning for coaching related to college preparation and enrollment. ($2,227,338)
    • Pitt Community College will provide career coaching and exploration, academic coaching, and support for at-risk students. ($1,013,441)


    • Chemeketa Community College will expand career and technical education dual credit courses, implement technological improvements, and enhance advising for transitions to college. ($2,222,423)


    • Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania will recruit and train high-performing students in grades 11 and 12 to serve as tutors to low-performing students in grades 6-8. ($2,227,263)
    • University of Pittsburgh will develop high-quality career pathways aligned with in-demand occupations. They will also provide resources for rural students and scale technology resources. ($2,227,368)

    South Carolina

    • Voorhees University will strengthen guided pathways for transitions from high school to college and transfers from two-year to four-year institutions. ($1,965,332)


    • Columbia State Community College will implement structured pathways for student planning, provide access to dual enrollment courses, and coordinate

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