Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Universal Access: Superhighway Critical for Equal Educational Opportunity

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Universal Access: Superhighway Critical for Equal Educational Opportunity

Article excerpt

Universal Access: Superhighway Critical For Equal Educational. Opportunity

by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

The information superhighway must be made available for free or at very low cost to public schools, community colleges and universities in order to ensure that all students have equal access to the vast educational resources the technology provides, government officials and educators told a U.S. Senate committee last month.

The developing network of computers and databases that can link any classroom in the country with libraries and universities around the world offers valuable educational tools and a means for the American workforce to remain internationally competitive, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The committee's ninth hearing on the most comprehensive revision of The Communications Act in 60 years focused on the impact the legislation would have on improving access to educational resources.

"The goal of [The Communications Act of 1994] is to ensure that all Americans, including students, minorities, low-income persons and rural consumers, will be able to obtain access to the most advanced technologies possible," said Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC), chairman of the committee.

The new legislation, S. 1822, requires that providers of the services make them available to schools and libraries at lower rates.

Riley suggested that providing access free or for nominal charges would allow all students to gain advanced technological and research skills while developing a large core of future consumers of the products.

"All public schools, community colleges and universities should have total access and use of these technological tools as much as possible," Riley said. "It is impossible to provide a world-class education for every American child without providing the proper tools."

Those tools, including multimedia educational materials, research information, government services and statistics and federal, state and local reports and information services carried over the Internet and other networks should be affordable for all schools, Sen, Bob Kerrey (D-NE) told the committee.

"Schools, teachers and students will be left in the competitive dust unless we define and declare their telecommunications and information services needs explicitly," Kerrey said. "We must achieve universal access for teachers and students, because this is the only way to achieve equity of opportunity in our educational system. …

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