Major Barriers to Study at Public Colleges and Universities in Rural Areas
In rural America, skills development remains the backbone of job advancement and economic development, yet many rural students do not receive the college or career readiness skills they need to compete. Online courses from local public and private institutions deliver high-quality courses at low cost, enabling students to take distance and on-campus learning at the same time, giving them the opportunity to maximize their learning and earn credit toward both degree and career completion goals. Rural and rural-urban students can take online courses at a reduced cost and schedule more hours so they can graduate in fewer, more efficient years. These online courses also expand learning opportunities for people with disabilities or for first-generation college students.
According to a 2017 study by the Rural Skills Development Corporation, better technology can make higher education more accessible, affordable, and effective at making students who live in rural or isolated areas competitive in the workforce. Technology innovation is showing up in a variety of ways:
Higher grades on Common Core academic assessments help students reach higher proficiency levels in science, reading, and mathematics at high-performing schools
Equipment created by low-income students in building trades, agriculture, and agriculture technology programs has advanced the communication capabilities of these courses
Computer applications, especially mobile applications, have been developed for education, business, and healthcare professionals
Social media has helped teachers enhance their communication and collaboration skills through online forums
Inclusive and flexible learning environments offer new classroom opportunities
Smaller class sizes have become the norm in rural education
Easy access to technology at home can improve success rates at the top-performing public schools in places such as Avon, Mississippi. Success rates are the percentage of students who graduate from high school and go on to attend college or a postsecondary program of educational attainment within six years. At Avon High School, the average six-year graduation rate is 94 percent and only 3 percent drop out. In 2007, Avon’s school was one of only nine schools in the state to achieve 100 percent graduation.
Recovery Training Centers in the Midwest are designed to serve unemployed people or people on disability and first-generation college students. Participants in these programs receive short courses, including basic in reading, math, and fundamental life skills, as well as customized work and service experience through an industry partner. The program model provides participants with continuous experiences that build vital personal and job skills necessary for the job market and life outside of retirement.
A record number of rural community colleges and universities across the country are implementing strategic programs and repurposing campuses to offer online courses. These efforts are changing the landscape of higher education in rural America, bringing new opportunities to rural students and their families and giving rural communities the educational capacity they need to flourish.
When can you start a class? Your local college or university can offer all or part of your online course with little or no enrollment fee, required books, or course books or course materials.
No registration or preparation required, course materials can be delivered on campus, or by mail to your home address.
Required textbooks and coursebooks or course materials may also be purchased online.
Walk-in students can register anytime during the day at the assigned time.
Upon enrollment, click the “Test Prep” link to review material and take classes with a live instructor
By William McShea, Online Learning Programs Assistant, MindShift