Despite similar graduation rates, rural students attend college at a much lower rate than their urban and suburban counterparts (AASA Rural Equity Report, 2017; Flora & Flora, 2013). In some states, this gap in postsecondary enrollment reaches as high as 20% (Pierson & Hanson, 2015). This issue appears to have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the number of rural students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) decreased by a whopping 18% from 2019 to 2020 (FSA, 2019-2020). These patterns are especially prevalent in highly competitive postsecondary programs (Byun, Irvin, and Meece 2015; Koricich et al. 2018).
The Rural Schools Collaborative created the Rural College Equity Toolkit to raise awareness about this disparity, as well as direct rural counselors, teachers, and students to relevant resources that may aid them in their postsecondary journey.