Funding benefits under-resourced, rural regions
WASHINGTON, DC, February 25, 2008 – While U.S. global competitiveness most often focuses on large, multi-national corporations, some believe that the prosperity of the nation’s rural heartland may be the key to future economic viability. Acting on that belief, the Wal-Mart Foundation today announced a two-year, $2.5 million grant to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) – which represents more than 800 rural institutions – to spur economic development by creating partnerships to serve resource-poor and rural regions.
The “Building Better Communities through Regional Economic Development Partnerships” initiative will be funded by the $2.5 million grant to support AACC’s Center for Workforce Development. Through the center, AACC will identify a pilot group of 20 largely rural community colleges located throughout the nation that will develop regional approaches to adult, postsecondary education, workforce development and economic development. AACC will partner with the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) in the work.
“The program the Wal-Mart Foundation is funding will allow both students and community colleges to be more competitive and to better serve the needs of their communities,” said Margaret McKenna, president of the Wal-Mart Foundation. “Wal-Mart is proud to support organizations like the AACC and their support of community colleges across the country.”
Dealing with the challenges facing typically under-resourced rural community colleges is an expanding focus for AACC, according to the association’s president George R. Boggs.
“Two-thirds of our membership represents rural colleges,” Boggs said, “and these institutions are critical to whether their communities are vital ‘players’ in a global economy or just bystanders on the road to a competitive future. Our association has taken a number of steps to support these colleges, but this new initiative provides the impetus to make community colleges an economic engine in fueling regional prosperity.”
Among the strategies AACC/NCEE leaders hope to deploy in building regional partnerships are: 1) alignment of postsecondary and K-12 education systems and adult education with workforce needs, 2) identification of industry clusters within a region along with jobs supporting those industries, 3) benchmarking successful economic development practices, 4) funding for entrepreneurship training and 5) enhanced outreach to attract and retain skilled workers within a region.
Pilot colleges to participate in the “Building Better Communities” initiative will be selected in late summer 2008 and will be announced in early September.
The American Association of Community Colleges is the leading advocacy organization representing the nation’s more than 1,100 regionally accredited community, junior and technical colleges and their almost 12 million students. Community Colleges are the largest and fastest growing sector of higher education, enrolling close to half (46 percent) of all U.S. undergraduates.
About Philanthropy at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and its Foundation are proud to support the charitable causes that are important to customers and associates in their own neighborhoods. Through its philanthropic programs and partnerships, the Company supports initiatives focused on enhancing opportunities in education, health and human services, sustainability and job skills training. In 2007, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and the Wal-Mart Foundation gave $296 million to communities across the United States. To learn more, visit www.walmartstores.com/community.
About Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart discount stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Club locations in the United States. The Company operates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom. Wal-Mart serves more than 176 million customers weekly in 14 markets. The Company’s securities are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WMT. For more information: www.walmartfacts.com.