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The impact of public four-year colleges and universities on community sustainability in non-metropolitan areas of the Great Plains

John Falconer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Colleges and Universities have claimed in quantitative and qualitative work that they provide economic benefits to their host communities. Quantitative studies took the form of economic impact studies that documented the dollars brought into a local economy, and determined the multiplier effect that measured total local impact of those dollars (Leslie and Slaughter, 1992). One national study (Loessner, 1994), compared per capita income in communities that hosted institutions of higher education to per capita income in communities that did not host institutions of higher education. Loessner and other quantitative studies did not demonstrate whether colleges and universities provided economic advantage in non-metropolitan communities. The qualitative literature was dominated by single-case studies and non-empirical work, neither of which described how colleges and universities impacted local economic development. ^ This dissertation included two components to explore how colleges and universities impacted their host communities in non-metropolitan areas of the Great Plains. A quantitative component compared economic data in four Great Plains states to assess whether communities with public four-year institutions of higher education showed greater sustainability than those that did not have public four year institutions. The results for this component were inconclusive. A qualitative grounded theory component included interviews with people in economic development, local government, the private sector, and higher education to determine whether they perceived local economic advantages to hosting institutions of higher education, and how those institutions affected local economic development. The results of this component indicated that there were significant advantages from direct economic impacts and from the forward linkage impacts generated by public four year institutions of higher education. Direct economic benefits derived from the stable presence of faculty and staff positions with comparatively good discretionary income and benefits, and forward linkage benefits derived from the impact of colleges and universities on local culture and quality of life. ^

Subject Area

Economics, General|Education, Administration|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Falconer, John, "The impact of public four-year colleges and universities on community sustainability in non-metropolitan areas of the Great Plains" (2006). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3218892.