As many as 41 million Americans live in “higher education deserts” – at least half an hour’s drive from the nearest college or university and with limited access to community college. Many of these deserts are in rural America, which is one reason so much of rural America is less prosperous than it deserves to be.
The lack of higher education access means fewer opportunities for going back to school or improving skills. A less educated workforce in turn means communities have a tougher time attracting businesses and creating new jobs. Congress should work to eradicate higher education deserts. In particular, it can encourage new models of higher education – such as “higher education centers” and virtual colleges – that can fill this gap and bring more opportunity to workers and their communities. Rural higher education innovation grants are one potential way to help states pilot new approaches.PPI_NewIdeas_CollegeAccess_V5 (1)