Higher Ed ‘Deserts’: Who Lives in Them, and Why it Matters

For millions of would-be college students, convenient and affordable degree programs are out of reach
(EWA Radio: Episode 179)

About seven in 10 undergraduates are “nontraditional” students, according to the U.S. Department of Education, meaning they delayed starting college, have a job or children, or are attending part-time. Meanwhile,, millions of would-be college students live in what some have dubbed higher ed “deserts” without easy or affordable access to postsecondary education. In a new piece for Washington Monthly magazine, contributing editor Anne Kim examines innovative approaches to creating oases for more students to complete their degrees. For example regional centers established in Pennsylvania and Virginia are bringing broadband connectivity to rural communities, allowing students first-time access to distance education. What is the long-term impact on communities of higher ed deserts  — particularly when it comes to economic growth? Where are public-private partnerships spurring greater opportunities for students to pursue credentials and degrees, including dual-credit programs for high schoolers? And how can reporters cover these stories locally, including by digging into available data on postsecondary access in their communities?

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