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Request for Proposal: Research on Advancing Rural Postsecondary Education

June 13, 2024


Roughly 46 million Americans live in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture designates as rural areas, yet federal policy and philanthropy have seemingly left rural America behind.  Today, many rural communities experience persistent intergenerational poverty, face staggering unemployment rates, and continue to lack access to healthcare, broadband internet, and postsecondary education. Further, discussions surrounding postsecondary education often center urban and suburban contexts, while the data, experiences, assets, and needs of rural learners and institutions remain overlooked and insufficiently addressed. In turn, there is a clear need to better understand both rural learners and the institutions that serve them, and ultimately, articulate policies and practices that center rural learners.

To this end, ECMC Foundation seeks to invest in research that will support policymakers, practitioners, and funders in identifying strategies to promote equity and success in rural postsecondary education, removing structural barriers faced by rural learners enrolled in higher education institutions, and understanding the role of postsecondary institutions in rural development.  

About this Request for Proposal

This request for proposal (RFP) invites researchers committed to producing knowledge about rural learners and rural postsecondary institutions to apply for grants of up to three years and $450,000. ECMC Foundation expects to award up to seven grants that will begin on or after November 1, 2024.

Research projects selected for funding through this RFP will be those that examine one of three priority areas:

  1. college experiences of rural learners with intersecting identities;
  2. roles of rural postsecondary institutions; and/or
  3. policies that affect rural postsecondary education.

Each of these priority areas are described in further detail in the full RFP linked below.

These research priorities are guided by ECMC Foundation’s strategic framework and North Star as well as complementing ongoing research in rural education. By addressing these research priorities, we aim to advance knowledge, inform policy, and ultimately improve outcomes for rural learners across the nation. Through collaborative efforts among researchers, policymakers, practitioners, funders, and community stakeholders, we can work towards a more equitable and inclusive postsecondary education landscape that serves the needs of all learners, regardless of their geographic location.

Successful projects will demonstrate how research findings inform actionable strategies for practitioners; local, state, and federal policymakers; and/or intermediary partners and funders in advancing the postsecondary success of rural learners.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations registered as a U.S. 501(c)(3) or a 509(a)(1), (2), or (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, state government agencies, non-profit two- and four-year institutions and systems or their affiliated and supporting foundations, and university-affiliated research centers or laboratories. Applicants may also represent partnerships between research teams and organizations, including research-practice partnerships.

ECMC Foundation values the importance of having meaningful connections and relationships between research teams and the communities they study. Therefore, if the proposed project includes working directly with rural communities/institutions to collect data (e.g., qualitative interviews with rural students, leveraging privately held datasets from a rural institution/organization), applicants must have an existing relationship with a rural-serving or rurally located postsecondary institution or a rural community/region.

Additionally, we strongly encourage applications from project teams representing the following:

  • Research led by individuals at postsecondary institutions that are rurally located and/or rural serving or in rural-centric organizations
  • Researchers from historically underrepresented groups and/or from institutions that serve underrepresented groups, such as:
    • Minority-serving institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions;
    • Regional comprehensive institutions.

RFP Application Deadline: July 14, 2024

Read the full RFP, including our priority areas, eligibility requirements, selection criteria and application instructions to learn more.

Learn More

For frequently asked questions, please click here.

Questions? Contact Stephanie Sowl - Program Officer, ECMC Foundation.

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