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The digital divide crisis in education

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 5:46 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - More than 21 million Americans have no meaningful access to the Internet, a divide widened by the pandemic. This lack of access impacts more than 15 million students and as the rest of the country shifts to virtual work, health, and education “new normal,” it is the same “old normal” for these forgotten students who are offline and out of mind. Internet access is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity of life, health, learning, and opportunity. It must be treated as a critical infrastructure by policymakers and service providers.

Western Governors University (WGU) – the nation’s most digitally connected university – is urging the nation’s leaders and internet providers that time is of the essence, and they must take action now. After 20 years of educating students virtually, WGU knows the importance of connectivity and sees an entire generation of students falling further behind. And while WGU contributes $1 million to increase access to education, policymakers and service providers have stalled on emergency legislation and weak policy. With extended virtual learning formats, many students, K-workforce, will be unable to meet the requirements necessary to advance their education and skills.

This problem extends to Americans who are unemployed but seek to reskill and reengage in a post-pandemic economy. Ensuring that these Americans have access to education and degree options in sectors where there is projected economic growth will be critical for our economy to recover and utilize the labor force it so desperately needs.

Proposed one-off solutions will not solve the long-term problem. WGU has launched its own initiatives to solve this issue through scholarship programs and innovative curriculums to ensure every American has access to a viable education.

On Thursday, Scott Pulsipher, President of WGU,  joined NewsChannel 7 at 4 to have a conversation about the digital divide crisis, the growing education gap and the need for proactive legislation to stem the tide of inequities in education across the digital divide and the financial barriers to meaningful employment.

More information is available at http://wgu.edu/access

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