NC-SARA Sponsors New Report on Digital Divide Released by Inside Higher Ed

Updated by on Mon, 02/08/2021 - 10:13

The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) sponsored a new report released by Inside Higher Ed that examines the sweeping impact of the digital divide, and its ongoing ramifications on equity and accessibility in higher education. Download the free report.

NC-SARA President and CEO Dr. Lori Williams said, “The digital divide is one of the most pervasive problems facing today’s students. It was a problem before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has now been seriously exacerbated as so many learning opportunities have gone virtual. As one of the nation’s leading advocates for quality distance education programs, we knew we had an obligation to draw more attention to the widespread reach and consequences of this challenge. We’re grateful to Inside Higher Ed for partnering with NC-SARA to produce such a valuable and thought-provoking report on this critical issue.”

The Inside Higher Ed report, entitled “Bridging the Digital Divide: Lessons from COVID-19” highlights how campus closures and social distancing measures created barriers for many students that may have contributed to recent enrollment declines, especially among low-income and disadvantaged students who are often more reliant upon school facilities and local libraries and coffee shops to access reliable broadband.

“Emerging enrollment data reinforced concerns from higher education experts that digital access, or the lack of it, appears to be playing a role in many lower-income students’ decisions to leave college or abandon plans to pursue a degree,” writes report author Lindsay McKenzie.

And while many students may have access to smartphones and devices that could be used to continue with virtual education programming, McKenzie notes “not all students have the funds to maintain these devices or pay for high-speed internet -- especially at a time when millions of Americans have lost jobs and wages and may be experiencing financial difficulties.”

The report includes several anecdotes, best practices, and lessons learned from institution leaders, higher education advocates, and recent survey data and research that can inform how we approach access to technology in higher education to ensure all students have the best opportunity for success.

The report is available to download for free, and you can also register for a free webinar on February 23, 2021 at the Inside Higher Ed website.