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January/February 2011

Inside This Issue:


Center Announces 2011 Grant Projects
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors has awarded research grants to faculty members of Pennsylvania State University, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford as part of its 2011 Research Grant Program.

Results of the 10 research projects will provide data and policy information to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The research projects focus on a wide range of issues, including rural Pennsylvania’s tourism industry, Pennsylvania’s wine industry, microfinancing, services provided to rural municipalities by the State Police, rural county prison systems, services provided by rural county Veterans Affairs Offices, rural nonprofits, unemployment in rural Pennsylvania, cancer rates in Pennsylvania, and food assistance programs.

All of the research projects will begin by Feb. 1.

The grant projects, awarded under the traditional and mini-grant programs, are summarized below.

Traditional Research Projects
Rural Pennsylvania’s Tourism Industry
Dr. Paula A. Holoviak of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania will examine the impact of the hotel room-rental tax on county governments and Tourist Promotion Agencies across Pennsylvania.

The Economic Viability of Microfinancing in Pennsylvania
Dr. Gayle A. Morris of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania will conduct research to identify and analyze microfinance programs and their clients to examine microfinance as a viable tool for economic growth in Pennsylvania. The research will emphasize microfinance programs serving rural counties and will examine the opportunities and barriers to participating in microfinancing programs from the lenders’ and borrowers’ perspectives.

Pennsylvania’s Wine Industry – An Assessment
James M. Dombrosky of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford will provide a comprehensive assessment of the Pennsylvania wine industry including viticulture, enology and marketing within the Pennsylvania liquor control system. The research will compare best practices with nearby states, and determine current capacity and growth potential for the industry.

An Examination of Pennsylvania State Police Coverage of Municipalities
Dr. Gary Zajac of Pennsylvania State University will conduct research to measure Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) services to rural municipalities and examine the financial aspects of providing those services. 

An Examination of Pennsylvania’s Rural County Prison Systems
Dr. Gary Zajac of Pennsylvania State University will examine population trends, jail capacity, finances, programs and other operations of Pennsylvania’s 44 rural county jails. The research will use existing county jail data from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics and primary data collected from county jails.

An Examination of Rural County Veterans Affairs Offices
Michael T. Behney of Pennsylvania State University–Harrisburg will conduct research to inventory, compare and analyze services provided by County Veterans Affairs Offices in Pennsylvania. The research will examine why variations in services exist and how satisfied veterans are regarding the services they are receiving.

The Status of Pennsylvania’s Rural Nonprofit Organizations
Dr. Roberta M. Snow of West Chester University of Pennsylvania will assess the current state of and develop policy recommendations for Pennsylvania’s rural nonprofits. The research will analyze nonprofit organizations quantitatively, based on type, revenues and expenditures distribution, community needs and location.

Mini-Grant Projects
Unemployment in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Simon Condliffe of West Chester University of Pennsylvania will identify industry groups affected by the most recent recession and examine unemployment patterns across Pennsylvania. The research will profile the unemployed, and identify differences between the unemployed in rural and urban counties.

Comparisons of Cancer Incidence and Mortality for Rural and Urban Pennsylvania Counties and Rural U.S. Appalachia
Dr. Steven Godin of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania will analyze cancer registry data to examine differences in cancer incidence and mortality in Pennsylvania’s rural and urban counties and in rural Appalachia in the U.S. The research will cross-tabulate a number of cofactors, such as the stage of diagnosis and demographics, with cancer epidemiology. 

Food Assistance Program Response During the Recession
Dr. Suzanne McDevitt of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania will analyze the response of major food assistance programs during the most recent recession, from 2007 through 2010. The programs to be analyzed include SNAP (food stamps), WIC (Women, Infants and Children Program) and the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP), which distributes food through the food bank/food pantry system.

Preparing for the 2012 Research Grant Program
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors is currently identifying topics for the 2012 Research Grant Program. After the topics have been identified, the Center will issue its Request for Proposals (RFP).

While the Center’s grant program is only available to faculty at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities, Pennsylvania State University, and the regional campuses of the University of Pittsburgh, the Center encourages cooperation and collaboration between these faculty and other public or private organizations.

For a copy of the 2012 RFP or more information about the Research Grant Program, call the Center at (717) 787-9555 or visit


Chairman's Message
While English Poet Laureate Lord Tennyson may be most notable for writing The Charge of the Light Brigade, he was also known for his poem that includes the phrase, “ring out the old, ring in the new.” This phrase, for many of us, might describe how we approach the end of one year and the beginning of another.

The beginning of a new year often is marked with change in our lives. For some, it’s a personal commitment to pursuing a healthier lifestyle. For Pennsylvania, it marks the beginning of a new administration. And for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, it marks my departure from the Board of Directors and my position as chairman.

My service on the Center’s board includes the periods of 1998 to 2002 and 2005 through 2010. I have held several officer positions, including board chairman since October 2006. As chairman, I have worked to keep the Center true to its mission of being a reliable and creditable source of rural research and data for the Pennsylvania General Assembly as well as many other rural constituent groups. It wasn’t that difficult a task given the strong involvement of the entire Board of Directors, the financial support of the General Assembly, and staff members who are committed to their work.

Through the years, I have met and worked with legislators, university faculty, and government officials who are passionate about rural Pennsylvania and the future of its residents and communities. These rural leaders are keenly aware of the issues that are affecting rural areas. They all provide great insights and feedback to the Center about its work, which in turn, help us to develop a research agenda that yields timely and important policy considerations for the General Assembly.

A sample of some of the research to be completed this coming year is on Page 1. In the past, research has focused on myriad issues such as drinking water quality, public health infrastructure, rural school district enrollment, information system security readiness of municipalities, the future of hunting in Pennsylvania, childhood obesity, and broadband Internet service in rural Pennsylvania.

As Pennsylvania continues to recover from the economic recession and works to maximize the potential of the Marcellus shale, the General Assembly will continue to need sound research and data to inform its decision-making process on behalf of rural residents. I trust that the Center will continue to be viewed as a valuable source for that information.

I extend my thanks to past and current board members and staff for their work. I am leaving the board in very capable hands, and look forward to supporting the continuing work of the Center from my seat in the Senate.

Senator John Gordner


Center Board Welcomes Dr. Karen Whitney
In December, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania welcomed Dr. Karen M. Whitney to its board. Dr. Whitney is President of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. 

Prior to joining Clarion University in 2010, Dr. Whitney served as Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Dean of Students at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). In that capacity, she was responsible for 12 departments and provided leadership for institutional strategic planning, policy development, and budget oversight to ensure the effective delivery of programs and services in close collaboration with academic affairs and finance and administration.

She also served as Associate Vice President for Student Life at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she held positions as Assistant Vice President of Student Life and Director of Residence Life. In addition, she held a number of positions in residence life at the University of Houston.

Dr. Whitney has a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Houston.

She is a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and the American College Personnel Association.


Rural Leaders Share Insights, Advice on Developing Skills
Throughout Pennsylvania, rural residents have taken on leadership roles to support and promote their communities and their residents. The challenges these leaders face continue to become more complex, as economic, political, social, cultural and even global forces influence local events.

To understand how rural leaders came into their leadership roles and how they developed their skills, Dr. Lee L. Williams and Maria Julietta Lindsey of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania interviewed a sample of rural leaders in 2008. The research was sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

First, the researchers reviewed literature on the general models and principles of leadership and then conducted in-depth interviews with rural leaders from across the state. The interview questions focused on the respondent’s leadership skills and skill sets, career background, and leadership experiences.

The researchers also conducted a focus group with six emerging rural leaders who were participating in a countywide, state-sponsored leadership program.

The researchers used the results of the literature review, the interviews and the focus group to: document the skills and personal attributes needed to be effective rural leaders; emphasize the role formal and informal training and education play in the development of rural leaders; and identify program considerations related to rural leadership development in Pennsylvania.

According to the research results, rural leaders see a clear need for improved training and educational opportunities to learn the skills and tasks specific to their position, which included budgeting, decision-making, conflict resolution, meeting facilitation, and community building.

To develop future leaders, the respondents also suggested that more formal entrepreneurial education opportunities be provided to students in grades K-12 and in workshops and seminars in rural communities. They stressed the need to attract young rural leaders and the need to put more time, money, and energy into solving the “brain drain” problem in rural communities.

In terms of rural leadership programs, the researchers suggested the need for: expanded educational opportunities for existing elected and appointed rural leaders to further develop their leadership skills and perspectives; expanded recruitment strategies for leadership development program participation; more practical and experience-based leadership development programming; and a more thoughtful and engaged follow-up process for those who complete leadership development programs.

Another consideration was to develop a regional-level, rural leadership development education plan that creates more regional leadership networks. The networks would allow leaders to engage with each other at more geographically diverse levels, learn from each other in terms of successes and failures, and understand community development at a broader level.

For a copy of the research results, Rural Leaders and Leadership Development in Pennsylvania, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email The report is also available at


Research Highlights Factors Affecting Success of GED Candidates
Dropping out of high school seriously impacts an individual’s job opportunities, income potential and employment stability. To minimize those risks, individuals can earn a General Educational Development (GED) credential.

Prior research on the impact of obtaining a GED on candidates’ lives has found that the credential affects their perceptions of themselves and their future success in terms of education, training, employment and income.

To find if certain factors affect the success of rural and urban Pennsylvania residents in obtaining a GED, Dr. Barbara Van Horn of Pennsylvania State University and Dr. Cathy Kassab identified similarities and differences among rural and urban GED students and looked to identify program considerations that may better serve the educational needs of these students.

The study used two data sources: the GED scoring service database and the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Adult Basic and Literacy Education’s (ABLE) database on participants in ABLE-funded educational programs. The researchers examined data for the period of January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2008, and only looked at those GED test takers with a Pennsylvania ZIP code or county.

Profile of GED candidates
The research found that, on average, GED candidates were 24 years old, did not complete schooling beyond the 10th grade, and earned about $5,800 the year prior to taking the GED. The largest percentage of rural and urban candidates indicated they were unemployed, and about one-third indicated they were employed full-time.

Overall, the most common reasons for taking the GED were personal satisfaction, to get a better job, to enter college, to enroll in a technical or trade program, and to be a role model for family.

Typically, the GED candidates found out about the GED through a friend, neighbor or family member.

The most common methods/approaches for preparing for the GED were home study, public school adult education class, official practice tests, and being self-taught.

The most frequently indicated reasons for not completing high school were “did not like school” and “absent too many times.”

Rural GED candidates traveled farther than urban candidates to take the GED tests, but both groups drove 25 miles or less, on average.

The research results also indicated that the rural candidates’ educational functioning level (EFL) upon entering the adult education program was significantly higher than that of urban candidates. However, the urban candidates’ level of participation was significantly more intense and persistent than that of rural candidates.

Program considerations
Based on these and other results, the researchers determined that common characteristics among rural and urban GED candidates have implications for adult basic education programs in terms of planning and providing GED preparation classes. Specific program approaches, based on the differences between the two cohorts, also can be useful in tailoring classes to meet the needs and interests of each group.

For example, program staff might consider student similarities and differences when planning and offering educational counseling and programs to students with sufficiently high EFLs who are seeking a GED credential. Although the general characteristics of adult learners will vary widely, both rural and urban adult education providers generally should consider the average age, years of schooling completed, reasons for dropping out of school, and current economic situation when developing classes for GED candidates.

To address the immediate educational needs and interests of these adults as quickly as possible, providers might, based on this study’s analyses: offer short but intense and challenging classes that focus on refreshing those skills candidates learned in high school to help them prepare for the GED; provide counseling and link class content to work since many GED candidates want jobs – or better jobs – or additional education or training; and help adults learn to use the resources available to effectively make the transition from obtaining the GED to work or further training.

Report available
For a copy of the report, An Analysis of Rural and Urban Pennsylvania Adults Taking, Completing and Passing the GED, call or email the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or A copy of the report is also available at


Counting All Pennsylvania Colleges, Universities and Trade and Technical Schools
Pennsylvania ranks among the top five states with the highest number of postsecondary institutions, but most of those institutions are located in urban counties. According to 2008 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there were 97 active postsecondary institutions in rural Pennsylvania counties and 291 in urban Pennsylvania counties. 

According to the data, 55 of the 97 postsecondary schools located in rural Pennsylvania were degree granting institutions, such as colleges and universities, and 42 were non-degree granting institutions, such as trade and technical schools. In the fall of 2008, these degree granting institutions had a total enrollment of about 165,700, or 3,000 students per institution. Non-degree granting institutions had an approximate enrollment of 2,800 students, or an average of 67 students per school.

In urban Pennsylvania, 210 postsecondary schools, or 72 percent, were degree granting while 81, or 28 percent, were non-degree granting institutions. Fall 2008 enrollment in degree granting institutions was approximately 563,000, or about 2,700 students per institution.  Non-degree granting institutions had a total enrollment of more than 16,000, or 200 students per institution.

Nationwide, there were 6,803 active postsecondary institutions. Approximately two-thirds of these institutions are degree granting and one-third are non-degree granting. The five states with the most postsecondary institutions are: California, New York, Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, each with more than 350 institutions. Rhode Island, Delaware, Wyoming and Alaska have the fewest number of institutions, each with less than 25. 

In fall 2008, enrollment in the nation’s postsecondary institutions topped out at 19.2 million students, or approximately 8 percent of the adult population (18 years old and older). Pennsylvania had the nation’s sixth largest enrollment with 747,500 students. California, Texas, and New York had the highest enrollments, each with more than 1 million students.

Enrollment in Pennsylvania Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions, 2008

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2008


Just the Facts: School-Sponsored Sports
Pennsylvania ranked 6th in the nation in the number of students participating in school-sponsored athletic programs in 2009-2010, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

That year, more than 317,400 students played high school football, ran track, or participated in more than 19 other sports. From 2004-2005 to 2009-2010, the number of students participating in school-sponsored sports in Pennsylvania increased 21 percent.

In Pennsylvania, there are significant differences in the number of sports teams rural and urban school districts sponsor. According to data from the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), the average rural school district has 15 different types of sports teams, while the average urban district has 20. While nearly every rural and urban school district offers basketball, baseball and softball, fewer rural districts offer other sports such as swimming (32 percent) or tennis (42 percent). Among urban districts, 75 percent offer swimming and 80 percent offer tennis.

Is there a relationship between the number of sports teams a school district has and student academic outcomes? According to a Center for Rural Pennsylvania analysis, there was no significant relationship between the number of sports teams per student and the percent of students who scored “advanced” on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test. There was also no relationship between the number of teams per student and student postsecondary participation rates.

There was, however, a positive relationship between the number of sports teams per student and school expenditures per student: the higher the district spending per student, the more team sports per student offered by the district.

Among rural and urban school districts, school enrollment was a significant factor in the number of sports teams. Districts with low enrollment (less than 1,500 students) had an average of 12 sports teams. Those with mid-sized enrollment (1,500 to 2,499 students) had an average of 17 teams, and those with large enrollment (2,500 or more students) had an average of 22.