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The Democracy Collaborative and CUMU Launch the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative in Partnership with 31 Colleges and Universities

Mobilizing anchor institutions


The Democracy Collaborative and the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) Launch the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative in Partnership with 31 Colleges and Universities

Washington, DC — April 10, 2018 Thirty-one colleges and universities across the United States have been selected as inaugural members of the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative, a national collaboration designed to develop and share new strategies for deploying higher education’s intellectual and place-based resources to enhance the economic and social well-being of the communities they serve.

The Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative is a joint project of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), a national organization dedicated to connecting urban universities and their partners, and The Democracy Collaborative (TDC), a national research institute developing strategies for a more democratic economy, and is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Colleges and universities are anchor institutions: local economic engines and mission-driven organizations inextricably linked to the long-term well-being of their local communities, and uniquely positioned and incentivized to play a more active role in supporting the local economy. By intentionally implementing an anchor framework, a college or university can mobilize its entire institution, including the business and administrative divisions, to be able to better serve its public mission. As Peter Englot, Senior Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at Rutgers University-Newark notes, ”Our understanding of the anchor mission was that it is incumbent upon us as a place-based, urban university to leverage our intellectual, human, and material capital in partnership with others across sectors of our community to make a collective impact on addressing the challenges facing our community […] We understood this to be not just good for our community, but to improve our scholarship and education.” 

The Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative will provide a national platform to accelerate this important work. According to Ted Howard, TDC President, “Colleges and universities in the US collectively employ over 4 million people, spend over $43 billion each year, and hold over half a trillion dollars in their endowments, which means their potential impact as community wealth building anchor institutions is enormous.”

Recognizing this potential, CUMU has worked with TDC to select leading higher education institutions from its membership to join the Initiative as inaugural members. For CUMU Executive Director Bobbie Laur, “The Initiative is invaluable to CUMU members. Whether public or private, CUMU member institutions are anchored by place and recognize an obligation to their communities to address challenges and work with partners to find creative, equitable solutions. This Initiative will guide universities across the country to expand current collaborative work and to form more strategic partnerships that benefit the economic and social well-being of their communities.”

The Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative builds on and expands the work of The Democracy Collaborative’s “Anchor Dashboard Learning Cohort,” in which six urban universities—SUNY Buffalo State, Cleveland State University, Drexel University, Rutgers University-Newark, University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Virginia Commonwealth University—collaborated in a multi-year process to pilot effective metrics for tracking anchor mission impact. The Initiative will be informed by the best practices identified by this Cohort, whose six members will become members of the Initiative.

The full list of participating members is:


  • Augsburg University
  • California State University Los Angeles
  • Cleveland State University
  • College of Staten Island
  • Drexel University
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Georgetown University
  • Indiana University Northwest
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Marquette University
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Portland State University
  • Purdue University Northwest
  • Rutgers University-Camden
  • Rutgers University-Newark
  • SUNY Buffalo State
  • Towson University
  • University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • The University of Chicago
  • University of Denver
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Michigan-Dearborn
  • University of Missouri-St. Louis
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of San Diego
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Wagner College
  • Weber State University
  • York University

Higher Edu Anchor Mission

For more information on the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative, see


John Duda, Director of Communications, The Democracy Collaborative, (202) 559-1473 x102

Arthur Smith, Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, (410) 704-3162,



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