Equalizing access to higher education.

COVID-19 prompted an emergency shift to remote learning that illuminated a major pain point within higher education—access to reliable broadband service and technology.

A series of national surveys reported that 16–19% of higher education students experience technology barriers such as inadequate internet connection that inhibit their participation in online learning. This percentage increases for lower-income students (20–30%) and students living in rural areas (14–25%).

The disparity between those who can and cannot access this necessary technology is much more than a technology gap—it’s a life gap.

Understanding the plight of today’s higher education students.

The stark reality for many higher education students is that they simply lack what they need—reliable Wi-Fi, computers, and mobile devices—to successfully complete their online education.

Too many students who recently became the first in their families to go to college are now also the first to drop out. One example is Paige McConnell. McConnell had to withdraw from her higher education classes because she doesn’t have Wi-Fi at her rural home in Crossville, Tenn., and the local library has been unavailable during the pandemic. Although McConnell spent hours driving to and from a McDonald’s parking lot to use their free public internet, she often got kicked off her college’s virtual classes due to an “unsafe” connection.2

Economic hardships prompted by the pandemic have made it even more difficult for lower income and minority students to juggle academic work, childcare needs, and financial pressures.

Establishing smart partnerships.

Access to fast, reliable internet connectivity and connected devices is now a basic requirement for higher education. Several surveys show that internet and technology access have played a major role in decisions to enroll in or drop out of higher education.6 In Fall 2020, 6.8% fewer first-year students enrolled in higher education institutions, the largest one-year decline recorded to date.7 This steep downturn highlights the importance of providing faculty, staff, and students with the digital resources and technologies they need to succeed—and the revenue ramifications higher education institutions may endure if these issues remain unresolved.

By providing high-speed internet service, partners like T-Mobile enable distance learning that can bolster enrollment, graduation rates, and student success.

Higher education institutions are aiming to solve these connectivity issues by working with a technology partner. By providing high-speed internet service to students—from large universities to rural colleges—companies like T-Mobile can enable distance learning from virtually anywhere. This accessibility can, in turn, have a positive effect on higher education by bolstering enrollment numbers, graduation rates, and student success.

T-Mobile for Education recently worked with Western Governors University (WGU), the nation’s largest online university, to help equalize access to higher education. Now, WGU can provide its students with the connectivity, devices, and infrastructure that make higher education accessible to everyone who wants it—no matter where they live. View the full case study to see how the WGU and T-Mobile for Education joint effort has become a true partnership.

Rethinking the traditional model.

Retooling the higher education landscape to drive greater access to technology resources for all learners can create a pathway to digital equity that’s vital for students’ futures. Digital literacy—the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using technology and the internet—is an issue that can transcend a student’s higher education career. A recent study estimates that 4 million annual job postings require at least baseline technology skills.8

Higher education institutions can empower all faculty, staff, and students to become digitally literate with the help of a technology partner like T-Mobile for Education.

 

With the help of a technology partner like T-Mobile for Education, higher education institutions can develop comprehensive strategies and solutions that empower all faculty, staff, and students to become digitally literate. We understand that this undertaking starts with providing the infrastructure, devices, and technologies required for successful higher education learning experiences. As America’s largest, fastest, and now most reliable 5G network according to independent third-party umlaut, T-Mobile for Education delivers the connectivity that helps higher education students complete their education, acquire better jobs, and change their lives.

For more information on howT-Mobile for Education is delivering access and equity in higher education, visit T-Mobile.com/HigherEd.

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