Insights Gained from Rural Respondents in ECS Special Report

To develop proactive strategies, policies and practices for rural communities and the postsecondary education institutions and workforce training programs within them, stakeholders must focus on building interventions informed by the voices of rural people and institutions. It’s only through a better understanding of how rural residents perceive education and training that stakeholders will be able to create successful and effective solutions that benefit rural learners.

special report by Education Commission of the States (ECS), in partnership with Strada Education Network and Gallup and funded by Ascendium, raises greater awareness and understanding of how rural residents are perceiving the value of education, barriers to entry or completion, connections to work and general satisfaction with prior education and training experiences. Utilizing data collected by Strada and Gallup in the fall and winter of 2020, ECS analyzed responses from rural residents, creating this special report. The report explores rural respondents’ perceptions of postsecondary education and its relevance to jobs and careers.

In general, rural respondents answered favorably when asked about motivations for past and future education. The survey data demonstrates that rural respondents are motivated to pursue education and training and see value in those endeavors.

However, rural respondents also indicated there are barriers or challenges to postsecondary education and workforce training, including the COVID-19 health crisis, the cost of education and the uncertainty in postsecondary education and career pathways. For these reasons and others detailed in the report, many respondents indicated they would not pursue additional postsecondary education and workforce training in the next five years.

This report elevates rural resident opinions and perspectives on the utility of postsecondary education and workforce training. State leaders can use this base of knowledge to help design strategic and tactical approaches to support healthy and vibrant communities. It’s one step forward in Ascendium’s pursuit to better understand rural learners though high-quality research and the creation of a rural postsecondary research agenda.