Giving Compass' Take:

Adam Harris at The Atlantic, discusses the inequalities related to education access within parts of rural America and offers recommendations on how to address education deserts.

One of the recommendations is for states to invest more in offering affordable higher education opportunities for rural students. However, the trend of state disinvestment in public higher education still holds strong. How can donors offer support or help in this arena?

Read about what makes an education desert.

One in three Montanans live more than 60 minutes from their nearest college campus. These tracts of land that separate the individuals and institutions are sometimes called “education deserts,” and they cover many patches of rural America. Add to that the fact that nearly 40 percent of first-time, full-time freshman attend institutions less than 50 miles from home, and these statistics begin to sketch the outlines of a crisis.

The high-school education gap actually narrowed between 2000 and 2015—now students are just about as likely to attain a high-school diploma whether they live in a rural or an urban environment, according to a report from the United States Department of Agriculture. But during that same time period, the college-completion gap has widened.

“We need to take seriously the idea that everyone deserves access to a quality education, and we need to do everything we can to make that a reality,” Tara Westover, the author of the memoir Educated, said onstage at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “There’s all kinds of evidence to show that education is wildly unequal,” she said, “and as we allow that to continue, we’re just seeing the beginning of our political turmoil.”

Online education is sometimes touted as a solution for education deserts, but a rural student seeking an online degree is more likely to run into infrastructure problems. As a report from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, showed, “only about 63 percent of people in rural areas have broadband internet access in their homes, compared with 75 percent of people in urban locales.”

Another potential answer is to encourage states to invest in higher education—placing more good, affordable options in places that need them. But if the trend of state disinvestment in public higher education holds, that may prove fruitless.

Read the full article about education deserts by Adam Harris at The Atlantic.