More and more students are taking college courses online, those who take some courses both in the classroom and online and those who are pursuing a degree exclusively online. But not everyone has the same access to sufficient broadband speeds or the ability to afford broadband.

A new education trends report from Education Commission of the States, Broadband access and implications for efforts to address equity gaps in postsecondary attainment, addresses two challenges confronting state policy leaders and students as they seek to leverage online distance education to meet education goals: (1) access to the infrastructure necessary to provide industry-standard broadband speeds and (2) ensuring availability of the financial resources necessary to support adoption of broadband where it is available.

“Internet access and adoption is not equally distributed among all communities.  The disparity must be considered as decision leaders design polices to support higher education attendance patterns and educational attainment,” said Lauren Sisneros, a policy analyst and co-author of the report. “Leaders should be cognizant of where gaps in access and/or adoption exist, and design policy responses to address each challenge.”

The report provides useful data on the number of students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions by distance education participation; the percentage of population, by state, with access to broadband speeds greater than 25 Mbps; the percentage of households with an Internet subscription, by state, in 2014; and much more.

Some key takeaways from this report:

  • Online education delivery in postsecondary is rapidly increasing as a tool to meet state education attainment goals. More than 25 percent of students now take some portion of their coursework online.
  • Depending on where a student resides, available broadband speeds may not be adequate to download and upload files, watch recorded presentations and participate in live video conference meetings and/or class sessions.
  • State leaders must ensure that the infrastructure for broadband access and financial resources for broadband adoption are in place to support all students in their selection of higher education delivery.

For questions, contact Education Commission of the States Communications Specialist Brady Delander at or (303) 299.3622.

Tweet this ECS report!

  •  New @edcommission report explores how broadband access and equity gaps in postsecondary attainment relate #highered
  • 25%+ of #highered students take portion of coursework online, but broadband access varies. Read more @edcommmission
  • 2 challenges to expanded online #highered: access to broadband speeds & financial resources. More from @edcommission

Related ECS resources that you’ll find useful:

Technology in early education, a report from 2012, looks at the role of technology in helping families who are setting the foundation for their children’s success in school and life. 

 PUBLISHED: March 30, 2016

 AUTHOR(S): Unspecified



 STATE(S): Nationwide

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