As other campus departments experience cut or stagnant budgets, campus engagement centers have been an exception. Although they’re generally smaller departments, their budgets have been steadily growing over the past few years. That’s according to a survey of Campus Compact’s member institutions.
As its report, “Creating a Culture of Assessment,” shows, 18 percent of the 557 responding centers reported annual budgets of $250,000 or higher in 2012, compared to 15 percent in 2010. Centers with low budgets are also decreasing: 37 percent had budgets of less than $20,000 in 2012, compared to 39 percent in 2010.
Maureen Curley, president of Campus Compact, says students have been a driving force in the focus on increased engagement. They want hands-on experiences that connect their studies with the community around them. Similarly, alumni like to see their institutions being active in citizenship. As high student enrollment and alumni donations are crucial to the health of an institution, it benefits the institution to make engagement a priority.
It’s essential for universities to make their community efforts known, Curley says. Beyond gathering, publishing, and publicizing the results of their outreach, she recommends institutions seek the Community Engagement Elective Classification from the Carnegie Foundation.
“It is an arduous task to obtain this classification,” Curley says, adding that it shows others the institution is serious about engagement.
Universities and their communities have a better chance of obtaining engagement funding when they present a united front to federal and state legislators, says Kim Griffo, executive director of the International Town & Gown Association.
“When communities and institutions show they are on the same page regarding a project, legislators are more likely to grant money,” Griffo says.
A crucial part of getting neighbors excited about engagement is making them feel like part of the university, Griffo says.
A dedicated engagement center building and parking lot let community members know they are welcome. The full report can be found online at http://bit.ly/18IsMts.