Fall 2021 - 60805 - PA 680PA - Policy Research Project | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Fall 2021 - 60805 - PA 680PA - Policy Research Project

New Role/anchor Institutions

A Community Hub and Opportunity Gateway:

The New Role Anchor Institutions

Steven W. Pedigo



Texas is rightly proud of its frontier heritage, but its rural regions are facing significant economic headwinds. According to the Texas Rural Funders, the net migration rate into Texas’s urban areas is 25 times greater than into its rural areas. The high school graduation rate in rural areas is 10% lower than the statewide average, and rural workers receive wages that are 26% lower. A 2018 poll of more than 800 rural Texans found that only 9% rated the economy in the area where they live as “excellent.” Most rated the availability of jobs— particularly those for young people just entering the job market—as either “poor” or “terrible.” 


All the while, nearly 3 million Texans continue to call rural communities home; this is more than the population of 18 states and the District of Columbia. 


Luckily for many rural Texas regions, they are also home to a number of anchor institutions – large-scale colleges and universities, healthcare institutions, cultural and recreational facilities, and major corporations. 


Urban tier 1 universities like Columbia in New York and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia have made deep investments in community development, housing, infrastructure, public health, and workforce development. Arizona State University, a large-scale public university, has illustrated how this model can and should work in growing sunbelt city environments, too. These efforts have demonstrated the impact urban anchors can have on community and economic development. 


And, while there's a growing body of policy research and practice around the role of urban anchors (as illustrated previously), there is limited research and practical strategies about the role of anchors in smaller/ and or rural communities (outside a traditional college town model) to further equitable, more inclusive, economic and community development goals. 


This Policy Research Project, with the support from the IC2 Institute, will aim to uncover a new policy playbook and strategy for the power of anchors as community hubs and gateways.


In hopes to accelerate economic impact, skill acquisition, cluster development, innovation and more in smaller communities, this class will explore the traditional urban anchor framework, evaluate its relevance, and propose a new model for engagement for institutions outside an urban and/ or traditional tier-1 research model. In addition to focused quantitative analysis (cluster evaluation, economic impact, demographic analysis) and qualitative study (including interviews, focus groups, and more), the class will also complete two best practice trips to better understand what is working and what is not for "role model" anchors. This PRP is intended for students who desire hands-on, "consulting-like" experience, delivering broad policy recommendations, strategic insights, a detailed action plan, and associated KPI metrics. 

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