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Rural Research Alliance

Research Alliance Quicktabs

Research alliances connect practitioners, researchers, and policymakers around regional education challenges. Alliances are tasked with addressing these challenges through regional research, technical assistance, and dissemination projects. Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest supports eight alliances.

Victoria Cirks

Alliance Lead
Victoria Cirks, Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR
View Bio

Please connect with us for more information about the alliance or to get involved.

Alliance GoalsAlliance Goals

The work of the Rural Research Alliance specifically addresses the issue of postsecondary access and success for rural students through research projects investigating issues related to postsecondary aspirations, academic preparation, college eligibility, and the geographic distribution of opportunity for rural students. In so doing, the work of the Rural Research Alliance aims to increase awareness of rural-specific issues related to postsecondary access and success in the Midwest and help improve stakeholder capacity to most effectively target resources for rural populations.

Guiding Research QuestionsGuiding Research Questions

How can research be applied in Midwest region states to better understand college readiness, teacher workforce, and virtual education issues in rural areas?


Victoria Cirks

Alliance Lead
Victoria Cirks, Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR
View Bio

Please connect with us for more information about the alliance or to get involved.

Alliance MembersAlliance Members

John Hill, National Rural Education Association

Erin Joyce, Ohio Appalachian Collaborative at Battelle for Kids

Kim Kaukl, Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance

Marsha Lewis, Ohio University—Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs

Fred Nolan, Minnesota Rural Education Association


Alliance MembersAlliance Researchers

Elisabeth Davis, Ph.D., Senior Researcher

Ayrin Molefe, Ph.D., Senior Researcher


Research ProjectsResearch Projects Collect and analyze data and summarize information for dissemination

College Enrollment Patterns for Rural Indiana High School Graduates (2013–15)

Goal: To investigate the college enrollment patterns of 2010 Indiana high school graduates of rural and nonrural public high schools who enrolled in public two- and four-year colleges in Indiana in the fall after high school graduation.


  • A similar proportion of 2010 Indiana graduates of rural and of nonrural public high schools enrolled in college, but the proportion that enrolled in a two-year college was higher for graduates of rural schools.
  • Rural graduates had academic preparation similar to that of nonrural graduates and were less likely to be eligible for the school lunch program.
  • Rural graduates travelled farther than nonrural graduates to attend two-year colleges and less selective four-year colleges.
  • About a third of rural graduates and a quarter of nonrural graduates who enrolled in college chose a college that was less selective than colleges for which they were presumptively eligible. 

College Aspirations and Attainment for Rural and Nonrural Students in the REL Midwest Region and the Rest of the United States (2015–16)

Goal: To compare college aspirations and attainment for rural and nonrural students in the REL Midwest region and the rest of the United States.


  • Examine differences in college aspirations, the subsequent attainment of those aspirations, and the reasons for not aspiring to attend college for rural and nonrural students.
  • Compare rural and nonrural differences in college aspirations and attainment.