It's 2017 and internet access can still be a barrier for some students

You probably imagine most of today's students to be digital natives, but in some parts of the country, students can have a difficult time just getting online.

Internet access can be a major barrier to higher education for rural students. Colleges have been making greater efforts to connect with rural students in recent months, partly to help diversify campuses and fill enrollment gaps.

State education leaders have recently focused on internet access for rural students in Florida, Lloyd Dunkelberger reports for The Gainesville Sun. Many rural areas in Florida lack reliable high-speed internet service, Dunkelberger reports, and the problem has hindered the state's push for higher college attainment.

About 680,000 people in Florida have no access to broadband internet service at all, according to a report presented to the state's Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC). In 13 small and rural communities in the state, 41% to 99% of residents have no broadband access, the report adds. None of those counties has a college attainment rate above 30%, Dunkelberger writes.

Even when college is free, many students still don't enroll. Here's why.

State officials hope to reach 55% college or professional degree attainment in Florida by 2020. They say increasing broad access is critical to meeting the goal, Dunkelberger writes.

The Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council is now working on policy recommendations to solve this issue, Dunkelberger reports. Marshall Criser, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, suggests education leaders plan to work with local business leaders to create policy recommendations—more graduates would mean more trained workers for businesses to hire (Dunkelberger, Gainesville Sun, 8/14).

Students to colleges: We are not as tech-savvy as you think we are

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