Rural College Towns Seek To Create Urban Life

<p>Rural colleges are urbanizing their campuses to stay competitive with their peers and keep up with evolving demographic preferences.</p>
February 8, 2007, 8am PST | Mike Lydon
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"Across from the red-brick Collegiate Gothic campus of Hendrix College in central Arkansas lie a few beat-up ball fields, tennis courts and an expanse of woods. Downtown Conway is only a half-dozen blocks away, but it is 'not overflowing with amenities,' as Frank H. Cox, a member of the Hendrix board of trustees, diplomatically put it.

For decades, colleges like Hendrix in rural areas of the country embraced a pastoral ideal, presenting themselves as oases of scholarship surrounded by nothing more distracting than lush farmland and rolling hills. But many officials at such institutions have decided that students today want something completely different: urban buzz. 'You can't market yourself as bucolic,' J. Timothy Cloyd, the Hendrix president, said.

At the same time, officials have realized that a more urbanized version of the ideal campus could attract a population well past its college years - working people and retiring baby boomers - if there is housing to suit them. And so a new concept of the college campus is taking root: a small city in the country that is not reserved for only the young.

Thanks to Roy Strickland

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Published on Wednesday, February 7, 2007 in The New York Times
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