The Center's Board of Directors annually approves topics for research. All projects must show a clear relationship to one or more of the Center's mandated research areas, which are rural people and communities, economic development, local government finance and administration, community services, natural resources and the environment, educational outreach, rural values and social change, agriculture, and health and welfare concerns.
The Center's enabling legislation requires that Center grants be awarded to qualified faculty members of the Pennsylvania State University, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities, and the regional campuses of the University of Pittsburgh, which are in Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown, and Titusville. The qualified faculty member must serve as the project director. Partnerships with other academic institutions, community organizations, and other public and private agencies are encouraged. The Center does not require a cash match from applicants for the grant programs. However, investment by other partners clearly represents support and belief in a proposed project so the commitment of matching cash or in-kind funding can offer a competitive advantage to an applicant.