Rural Communities

About Rural Communities

Afterschool and expanded learning programs are uniquely positioned to support rural communities because the programming can be tailored to the needs of the children and build upon community strengths. Rural afterschool programs face a number of unique out-of-school time challenges, including:

  • Fewer available private partners—Less businesses, community organizations, foundations, colleges and universities tend to exist.
  • Limited local tax base—Given rural reliance on a few industries, there is a high degree of “brain drain” out of rural areas.
  • High transportation costs—The long distances between schools’ program sites and children’s homes, as well as a limited number of transportation providers makes transportation expensive.
  • Staffing challenges—Due to the difficulty of recruiting and retaining staff and the limited availability of professional development activities, there are generally fewer trained teachers and staff members.
  • Limited eligibility for funding—Funding streams are often not targeted toward rural areas. When programs are eligible to apply they often do not have the capacity to do so or may not be able to meet all the requirements.

Key Information

  • One-fifth of children in the U.S. attend public schools in rural communities.
  • 2.5 million children living in rural areas live in deep and persistent poverty.
  • Over the past several decades, child poverty rates have been higher in rural than in non-rural areas.
  • Among children living in rural areas, 19 percent live in poverty, compared to 15 percent among non-rural children.
  • Thirty-one percent of rural grade-school students are eligible for reduced-price or free lunches, as compared to 25 percent of urban grade-schoolers.

Strategies to Support Rural Communities

  • Build coalitions to help with transportation.
  • Identify possible funding sources as public service organizations, local private foundations, corporations, and individual contributors can all serve as potential funding sources for rural out-of-school time programs.
  • Increase the number of trained staff members.
  • Use existing volunteer organizations to recruit staff.
  • Maximize existing resources, such as local schools and community colleges which can offer space, transportation, tutoring materials and technological expertise and equipment.