The work of college students to revitalize Gary and Hammond should be applauded.
In Gary, graduate students have begun helping residents and city employees build a database of the city's vacant structures and the condition of other properties in the city.
On May 4, the students and volunteers covered slightly more than 4,000 parcels in three hours. The work will continue throughout the summer.
The city partnered with the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago on this project.
"The idea is for us to get baseline data and information on every parcel of property in the entire city of Gary — all 57 square miles," Zoning Administrator Joe Van Dyk said.
You'd think the assessor's office would have all this information already, but it's good that the students, using software developed for Detroit and donated to Gary, could do this work to provide a baseline for redevelopment efforts.
In Hammond, Purdue University Calumet students prepared a business plan for the city. This, too, is important work.
"I believe very strongly that because we live in Hammond that we need to be a part of Hammond," Chancellor Thomas Keon said. "Too often universities become a little island or oasis that is surrounded by something they don't want to be a part of or don't want people to think they are a part of."
Among the students' recommendations are to increase ticket prices at the Towle Theater by $3, to $20, to cover the cost of free merchandise to advertise the theater, and to arrange bus transportation between the university and downtown when shows and other events occur.
The projects these college students are doing will help them better understand how theories work when put into practice. They need real world experience, and projects like this provide it.
But the students aren't the only ones who benefit. These two projects, among many being done by college students throughout the region, offer yet another reason to appreciate both higher education and the work students are doing to improve our quality of life.