Rural Students: Technology, Coursework, and Extracurricular Activities

Rural students are often overlooked when it comes to education policy reform. However, the majority of rural students in nearly half the states are from low-income families, generally earn lower scores on standardized high school assessments, lack access to rigorous coursework, and attend college at lower rates than do students from non-rural areas.

Efforts to ameliorate the effects of some of these issues depend increasingly on access to technology such as broadband and devices. Access to technology is important for education, not only because there is a plethora of technology-based resources for learning, but also to teach students the basic computer skills that are important for many careers.

This brief takes a closer look at rural students’ access to technology, coursework, and extracurricular activities opportunities in various facets of their high school experiences.

So What?

ACT surveyed a sample of students who took the ACT in 2018. Using student responses from two online surveys, one group of students was asked about their access to and use of technology and internet connectivity both at home and at school, while the second group of students was asked the number of courses they were enrolled in that could result in college credit (e.g., dual enrollment or Advanced Placement).

Now What?

Access to quality internet connectivity, course-taking behavior, and extracurricular participation were different for rural students vs. non-rural students. Policy recommendations are to improve access to technology and rigorous course taking, especially among rural students, and to expand opportunities for personalized learning.


Michelle Croft, PhD/JD

Michelle Croft is a principal research associate in State and Federal Programs.

Raeal Moore, PhD

Raeal Moore is a senior research scientist in ACT Research specializing in survey methodological research and research on education best practices in P-12 schools.