Stanford University announced a new initiative that seeks to leverage the school’s technological capabilities to reach students who have historically been underserved by higher education.

As part of the initiative, the newly formed Stanford Digital Education office will partner with the National Education Equity Lab, a nonprofit organization that works to bridge the gap between high school and college.

As part of an initial pilot program, Stanford Digital Education and the Ed Equity Lab have enrolled more than 220 students nationwide in a credit-bearing introductory course, Computer Science 105, for the fall quarter of this year. The students come from 15 Title 1 high schools, where at least 40 percent of the students are from low-income households. Other Stanford courses are expected to be offered through the lab’s network of Title 1 high schools later in the academic year.

“This pilot course is part of an effort by Stanford to expand the university’s social impact at the local, national and global levels, and we are thrilled to partner with the Ed Equity Lab,” said Stanford University Provost Persis Drell. “Through this new office, we seek to strengthen Stanford’s capacity to innovate in extending educational opportunities to those who have not had access to them before.”

In a press release, Stanford said the new Stanford Digital Education office aims to spur innovation in Stanford’s online and hybrid education strategies. The university added that the office’s mission is to “support and amplify digital education initiatives across Stanford’s schools and offices, helping to incubate new ideas and projects while providing a framework to facilitate collaboration internally and externally, as the work with the Ed Equity Lab demonstrates.”

“Our vision is to contribute to a more just, equitable, and accessible system of education by uniting Stanford’s human and technological capabilities in new combinations,” said Matthew Rascoff, the newly appointed Stanford Vice Provost for Digital Education, who is leading the effort. “Together we can build a powerful escalator for socioeconomic mobility.”

The first pilot course will be taught by Stanford computer science lecturer Patrick Young. Young and members of Stanford Digital Education and the Ed Equity Lab set up the course keeping in mind that many of the students may have little background in the subject. “The goal is college-level rigor with support designed to meet the needs of high school students,” Young said.

As with other courses offered by the Ed Equity Lab, students will take part in the course as part of their regular school day. However, Stanford said its course differs from typical Ed Equity Lab courses in a few key ways. Unlike other courses, Stanford alumni and students serve as section leaders and advisors. Additionally, teachers from the high schools, who are in the classrooms to facilitate and help with each lesson, are provided with professional development and support from Stanford’s Transforming Learning Accelerator.

“Our work is rooted in the fact that talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not,” explained Leslie Cornfeld, Ed Equity Lab’s chief executive officer. “By connecting our college partners with our nation’s historically underserved high schools, we aim to change that, at scale. Stanford’s effort shows what it looks like for a university to play a leadership role in broadening educational opportunity.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs