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Town / Gown

A dream for San Fernando Valley officials for 30 years and a campus plan for the past decade has finally become reality at California State University, Northridge.

Interest in collecting payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) from higher ed institutions and other nonprofits is likely to grow as cash-strapped municipalities seek additional revenue, according to a new report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. But the recommendation for cities and towns is to collaborate with colleges about the payments to ensure greater consistency and transparency.

It wasn't long ago that the longstanding relationship between town and gown in both Pittsburgh and Providence absorbed a shock, as city officials rolled out plans to tax local colleges and universities.

In 2009, the mayor of Pittsburgh proposed a 1 percent tax on tuitions at the city's 11 higher education institutions to shore up the pension fund for city employees. The mayor in Providence, meanwhile, sought legislation to reduce a $17 million budget deficit with a levy of $150 a semester for each student at Brown University, Johnson and Wales University, and Providence College.

Like many who work in higher education, I love university traditions--the rituals, events, and stories that carry on and bind together each generation of students. Those traditions engender devotion to our institutions on the part of our alumni and make us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.

There are scholarships available for just about anything these days. In addition to endowed scholarships for students with names such as Zolp, Scarpinato, Gatling, Baxendale, Hudson, Thayer, Downer, Bright, and Van Valkenburg, many organizations offer awards for specific talents or interests.

Future Shock

So, what do the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, the State University of New York at Binghamton and Berkshire Community College have in common? If you are searching for an answer, just consider the role higher learning has played in the transformation of America's river mill cities into contemporary collegetowns.

Election years always tend to revive the debate surrounding immigration policy. What is often forgotten is that many people with a foreign accent arrived here through proper channels. Community colleges are working to help integrate them in their new homes.

"Everyone has heard of the immigrant doctor who is driving a taxi," says Teresita Wisell, associate dean of the Gateway Center at Westchester Community College (N.Y.). "We want to help them navigate the process to help them use their education."

In today's difficult economy, colleges and universities are suffering like they never have before. Fundraising levels have dropped dramatically, and the amount donated annually by supporters is roughly half of what it was a few years ago. Endowments are suffering, which impacts schools' ability to support students and programs. In addition, with federal and state budget cuts also running rampant, faculty and staff are being laid off, regardless of their credentials and ability.

An art gallery with exposed brick walls displays works by faculty, students, alumni and local artists and has become a gathering spot for both the college and broader community.

Montgomery County Community College (Pa.) and the broader community benefit from adaptive reuse.

Over the past two years, Arizona State University has opened two new schools at its campuses in the Phoenix area. But these educational additions are not training future social workers, lawyers, or business executives. They'll be turning out qualified future college students, many of whom—ASU officials hope—will populate the state's universities years from now.