What Seemingly Small Thing is Hindering Higher Education Attainment in Rural America?

Sep 29, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Many factors come into play when it comes to the subject of widening access to higher education. Now comes new research from the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida indicating that one lesser-known issue may be hindering degree attainment and economic development in the US state of Florida: lack of internet access.

Here’s a closer look at the report, along with how experts recommend fixing the problem, as recently reported by the Panama City News Herald.

Limited Access, Limited Opportunities?

According to the report presented last month to Florida’s Higher Education Coordinating Council, approximately 680,000 Floridians -- particularly those in rural areas -- lack access to critical broadband service which would allow them to download information at a minimum speed of 25 megabits per second. The report not only delineates which counties lag in broadband access, but also links these counties to lower percentages of residents with college degrees or certificates -- some as low as 11 percent.

Said Independent Colleges and University of Florida Ed Moore, who also compiled the report, “That’s a whole new world of higher education and creating access. If you can’t get it in your house, if you can’t get it in your local school, your library or some other facility, it doesn’t mean anything to you.”

Moore’s ultimate conclusion? “You cannot get ahead if you cannot get online.”

Collaborating Toward a Solution

Meanwhile, Florida Chamber of Commerce president Mark Wilson pointed out that lack of high-speed internet access is also an impediment to economic development in the same communities. In fact, said Wilson, the Florida counties which failed to gain jobs following the Great Recession were the same counties which still lagged behind in terms of adequate internet access.

The natural takeaway, say stakeholders? A collaboration between the two sectors for develop policy recommendations aimed at improving broadband services for all. Insisted Moore, “This creates equal opportunity for success for everybody.”

Read more about online studies.



Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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