Ted Mitchell, ACE President and Jamienne Studley, WSCUC President
June 9, 2020
The Class of 2020 is graduating from a distance. We all want American life to return to normal as quickly as possible, and hope that the fall will see students walking across college campuses again. But we have to gird ourselves for the possibility that might not happen.
That means we must prepare now for the potential that colleges and universities that swiftly shifted to online instruction as the pandemic swept through the country and forced campuses to shutter will have to continue, and even ramp up, those efforts in September.
Sadly, though, the reality is that millions of Americans — in rural and urban areas alike, and including many underrepresented minorities — lack the reliable broadband connections needed to access postsecondary and K-12 education in a nation that remains in partial lockdown. This longstanding digital divide for learners of all ages has morphed into a divide that is keeping these vulnerable students offline during a critical period.
This means that students living in online “education deserts,” who already face significant barriers to success, are being locked out of the postsecondary education that is so important to so many individuals’ prospects for future prosperity and civic engagement.