«Los desiertos de la Educación Superior» en EEUU

En Estados Unidos son cada vez más importantes las iniciativas en la escuela secundaria para informar a los estudiantes acerca de las diversas opciones para escoger universidad. Se les informa sobre los tipos de universidades, las especialidades, cómo financiar su etapa universitaria y cómo elegir la universidad que mejor se adapta a sus características. Sin embargo, la mayoría de estudiantes se queda en su Estado para cursar sus estudios y, además, se matriculan en universidades próximas a su localidad. Por eso, tan importante como el conocimiento de cuáles son las mejores universidades, es la capacidad de acceder a las de su elección sin que pesen tanto las dificultades geográficas.

Muchas veces los estudiantes tienen las herramientas y la información para elegir una buena universidad, pero no tienen posibilidades de acceder a áreas geográficas  diferentes a aquellas en las que viven.

Este fenómeno, descrito en un post del Brookings Institute y del que ofrecemos este resumen, se ha denominado “los desiertos de la educación.”

While high school students are being given more resources than ever to help them choose and enroll in a college, including information about financial aid and establishing fit, these resources are in vain when students aren’t presented with much of a choice. The focus on “college knowledge” may be the wrong approach when access is absent; in the U.S., much postsecondary education activity is centered in certain regions. Furthermore, it is harder than ever for students to make the journey in order to find such opportunities:

Today’s college students are increasingly place-bound, working full-time, and are balancing a number of other responsibilities while taking classes. Their choices are determined by what is nearby, regardless of how much college knowledge they may have about alternative options. For them, it is not very helpful to know that a college hundreds of miles away would be a better academic fit or provide a better financial deal than the one down the road.

Students are filling many roles more than ever; they are employees, parents, or caretakers in other regards. All of these factors tie students to a specific place. Because of these additional responsibilities and the simple infeasibility of moving to pursue college, a recent post by Inside Higher Ed shared that:

“Most public college students enroll within 50 miles of home, so location is more influential than policy makers think, a new study finds”. Afirman los autores,  Nicholas Hillman y Taylor Weichman


Education deserts in commuting zones. In red are featured education deserts in commuting zones, in which students don’t have access to education they can reach from home. Fuente: American Council on Education.

Education deserts exist in all 50 states, and geography remains a crucial factor in determining postsecondary degree attainment. The problem is gaining more attention and, accordingly, push for policy change. The authors of the post, Brian Sponsler and Nicholas Hillman, propose first that further research is done into where exactly education deserts exist in the country and more detail in terms of what resources local communities have. Trying to build the capacities of colleges in these areas is the more difficult task, and solutions to serve more students such as satellite campuses and public-private partnerships. A policy solution proposed is a  federal effort similar to Title I funding for public K-12 schools in which disadvantaged communities would receive additional support to better their postsecondary education.

Additionally, the authors warn against the optimistic outlook of online distance education as a panacea.

There are persistent challenges to access and adoption of broadband that play a limiting role in reversing the deeply rooted inequalities found in the education marketplace. Place matters, and we don’t believe you can overcome its influence through technology alone.


*Referencia elaborada por Hannah Taylor y Miguel Ángel Sancho para univerdad.


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