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Data Highlight Internet and Device Access Disparities

May 28, 2021
 
 

Students of color, caretakers and students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to face barriers accessing fast and reliable internet and functioning devices than their peers, new survey data show.

"Online Isn’t Optional: Student Polling on Access to Internet and Devices" was published this week by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a nonprofit research, policy and advocacy organization that aims to promote success for all students. The report draws on survey responses from over 1,000 college students and includes several recommendations for improving broadband and technology access in higher education. Polling data shared in the survey were contributed by the left-leaning think tanks New America and Third Way.

Approximately 60 percent of Black and Latinx students face significant challenges in paying for fast and stable internet, compared with 50 percent of white students, according to the report. The report also includes data indicating student parents and caretakers are much more likely than their peers to share computers with others.

“In 2021, students need reliable, fast, and affordable internet connections and internet-enabled devices if they are to succeed in higher education,” said Mamie Voight, interim president of IHEP, in a statement.

“The distinct and disheartening differences in internet and device access according to race, income, and caregiving status are a matter of equity,” said Voight. “To better serve these students, in addition to students in rural areas, institutional leaders and policymakers must recognize that technology is a necessity and build or strengthen sustainable connectivity.”

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