New Study Shows Inequality in College Students’ Technology Access
A college campus is a place where students get access to top-notch teachers, mentally stimulating coursework, and fun social events. However, a recent study carried out by Indiana University found that even though all attendees of a university typically have equal access to those broad things the establishment offers, inequality prevails in a specific area: Access to technology.
The Ability to Get Reliable Tech Equipment Is Not Consistent
As anyone who has ever owned an undependable car knows, a vehicle that breaks down a lot can be more stressful than not having a car at all. The Indiana University study found that reality was also present for some of the nearly 750 students who took part in the survey.
Almost all of them had smartphones and laptops. Approximately 20 percent of the respondents reported they had difficulty maintaining access to technology that allowed them to get their work done efficiently. For example, sometimes their laptops wouldn’t hold a charge. Or, if they lived in off-campus housing, the internet access there might be too costly to afford.
Such problems were more common among low-income students than those with more affluent backgrounds. And, the researchers discovered that when students had challenges with access to technology, their grades were lower than those earned by people who did not have the same struggles.
Perhaps that’s because this research also revealed how learners from higher-income families were more likely to approach their professors and ask for deadline extensions when needed — such as to have more time to cope with a slowdown caused by technology issues. In contrast, low-income students would more often merely accept the consequences instead of mentioning the problems.
Replacements Are Often Difficult to Get, Too
The team involved in overseeing the research also uncovered another trend that’s probably not surprising. People who came from families who were comparatively wealthier could often get replacement technology within a matter of a few days, and that option didn’t exist for low-income students.
It’s invariably stressful if a computer starts showing signs it needs to be replaced. Plus, considering how most college assignments require access to technology in some capacity regardless of the subjects studied, the anxiety associated with failing technology undoubtedly goes up for a person who does not have the resources to allow for prompt replacements.
Instances of Inequality Before College
Of course, inequality in education happens before college as well. Fortunately, some businesses do what they can to help educational institutions compensate for a lack of funds.
One of them is the End Zone Athletics company. It has a presence on some non-high-school-related websites, such as those related to horse racing. But, one of the main goals of the company is to reduce or eliminate fundraising burdens on high schools by providing them with branded school spirit gear. Since the products have advertising, the schools don’t pay for them.
The End Zone Athletics Facebook page shows numerous pictures and videos of its employees having fun and doing their part to help high schools succeed, especially in terms of things related to school spirit.
But, how could people at the university level minimize some of the technology gaps mentioned? The researchers recommended that the colleges work harder to give free or low-cost devices to the students who need them.
Moreover, they brought up the possibility of colleges presenting a technology-related financial aid option. That approach seems sensible, especially since people who lack the technology they need to succeed in classes will have disadvantages compared to their peers.
Inequality is part of life in many ways. But, it’s crucial for people to do what they can to reduce its prominence. College administrators could have life-changing effects on the student body if they prioritize technology access for all.