It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you’re on—The United States feels very divided at the moment for a variety of reasons. An increasingly heated political landscape, social injustices, and widespread disagreements on the current and future plans for the American economy have led to divisions across multiple socioeconomic lines.
However, there’s one division that has greatly influenced the nation as of late: the division between urban and rural America. While things are looking up in terms of economics for urban communities, the same can’t be said for rural economies—and this has a drastic impact on how rural Americans approach higher education.
Researchers estimate that by 2020, over 65 percent of all jobs in America will require post-secondary education, with a large percentage of jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees. So why are less Americans living in rural areas pursuing bachelor’s and postgraduate degrees?
In this blog, the CLEP study guide experts at SpeedyPrep will break down the problems rural America faces when it comes to higher education, and provide solutions for how education can become more accessible for those who choose to stay away from urban areas.
Universities aren’t as accessible in rural areas.
Universities and their surrounding communities have symbiotic relationships—vibrant college towns attract excited college students, and in return, the universities and their student populations stimulate the local economy by purchasing goods and services. This relationship is certainly present with four-year universities and their respective towns, and it’s also present in rural areas with technical schools and community colleges, to some extent. However, rural areas are not sustainable areas for four-year colleges and universities—there just aren’t enough people or economic opportunities to make it happen. This means that those who live in rural areas must move to nearby urban areas (or any relatively urban area with higher education opportunities) to have a chance to earn a bachelor’s degree. For those who live far away from urban areas in state, the only comfortable option might be to choose an out-of-state school, which can be expensive, if not financially unfeasible.
Poverty is historically higher in rural areas.
While there are plenty of discussions on urban poverty in the United States, rural poverty might actually be a proportionately bigger issue. According to PBS NewsHour,16.7 percent of the rural population was poor in 2015, compared to 13 percent of the urban population. Even those who work in rural areas are more likely to be poor—9.8 percent of household workers in rural areas were considered poor, compared to 6.7 percent of household workers in urban areas.
With rural workers essentially getting less out of work than urban workers, it can be difficult for those in rural areas to justify the costs of a college education, especially when you bring our next topic into the mix.
There are fewer jobs in rural areas.
In many rural areas, older generations were used to finding work in the industrial or agricultural world as miners, farmers, lumberjacks, and the like—but jobs like these are quickly disappearing due to mechanization and automation, leaving many rural towns struggling to find work and economic prosperity. This leads to less interest in rural technical colleges, and rightfully so—what’s the point of being trained in the world of mining or natural gas when the job market is shrinking?
While many people in urban areas believe the 2008 recession is over and things are looking up, it doesn’t exactly feel that way for many people living in rural areas. With that perception—especially for those who live in rural areas and want to stay there—it can be difficult to invest in an expensive four-year college or university for higher education.
What’s the solution?
There aren’t many (if any) solutions that can solve problems with rural poverty and rural job losses overnight—these are driving factors for why rural students tend to have less lofty academic expectations for themselves (rural students are much more likely to choose one or two-year programs over four or five-year ones), and often choose to skip out on universities offering four-year degrees.
However, programs like CLEP can address issues with the affordability and accessibility of four-year degrees. Utilizing CLEP allows students to save thousands of dollars and shave multiple semesters off of their college careers by putting their prior academic knowledge to good use.
While a year at a four-year public college could cost you over $36,000 when you add in tuition, room and board, and learning materials, a single CLEP test costs $85—or roughly $850 for a year’s worth of college credits.
The best part? Using a CLEP test prep program like SpeedyPrep allows you to prepare for your CLEP exams no matter how rural your rural area might be. It might be a little bit of a road trip to find the nearest CLEP testing center, but the incredible savings and convenience of living where you want will make those trips worth it.
With CLEP, earning a bachelor’s degree is more affordable and accessible than ever before—even for those in rural areas. While economic difficulties and a decrease in rural jobs will continue to be a determining factor for how (or if) students pursue higher education opportunities, CLEP ensures that those opportunities are within reach.