Universities as Community Life Preservers

Universities as Community Life Preservers

I recently read an article detailing topics discussed by university representatives from across the nation at a panel discussion held recently in Los Angeles. One of the topics was whether a university can economically rescue the city or town that cradles it.

 I answer a robust “Yes,” since I have lived in one university town and one  university city, both of which relied on the college campus as a social and financial bloodline.  The university was the biggest employer and the local watering hole for people of all ages.

The presence of a university directs millions of dollars to any municipality, creating jobs in sectors ranging from academia to janitorial services. Universities bring weekend workshops and summer programs for children, teens or adults to enjoy art, science and business events.  Most colleges develop community outreach programs to make residents feel welcome on campus and to forge partnerships with local businesses.

We haven’t even talked about the leisure benefits yet! Even a small college offers theater events, sports activities and lectures -- often with visiting celebrities or well-known authors. I’ve met people ranging from Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame) to former Black Panther Angela Davis to poet Maya Angelou, all at free university events.

When a university chooses to close even a satellite campus in a town, it can greatly affect the local reputation and economy.  It also affects the training of citizens, because more people are likely to pursue degrees, certificates or endorsements when a college campus is right around the corner.

In the modern age as more classes move to an online venue, cities and towns can’t afford to lose brick-and-mortar satellite campuses. Main universities are generally not in danger of closing, but with the cost of education rising, some colleges can’t afford to keep community hubs open. They must, however, for the sake of citizens and the people-next-door who depend on them.