More than 10% of Va. students don’t have broadband access at home
State Council on Higher Education for Virginia analysis breaks down the digital divide
While Virginia school districts and higher education institutions are finalizing fall plans in light of the pandemic, an analysis released Wednesday by the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) shows that more than 200,000 K-12 students and more than 60,000 college students in Virginia lack broadband access at home.
These numbers reflect 14% of K-12 students in Virginia and 10% of college students in Virginia. SCHEV also found that 173,000 K-12 students and 23,000 college students in Virginia don’t have access to a laptop or desktop computer.
“The research looked at whether students actually had broadband service in the home, rather than if it was available in their area,” the report’s author, Tom Allison, SCHEV senior associate for finance and innovation policy, said in a statement. “That is important because a household might have a dozen companies to choose from, but won’t benefit if they can’t afford it.”
The SCHEV report highlighted what is commonly referred to as the “digital divide” — the fact that students living in rural and impoverished urban areas of the state are less likely to have broadband internet when compared to students in suburban and urban areas with better financial prospects. Nearly 40% of all students without broadband live in or around Virginia’s cities, SCHEV found, and approximately half of students lacking devices live in urban areas.
Specifically, SCHEV found that students in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk lack home broadband at higher rates than students in Franklin, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania counties. Black and Latinx students are also twice as likely as white students to lack a computer at home.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about what college will look like in the fall, but one thing we do know is that much more of it will be conducted and experienced online,” Allison said in a statement. “It’s good that state policy is beginning to shift to looking not just at infrastructure, but affordability, devices and skills so that vulnerable students aren’t left further behind.”