Why XAP Believes Targeted Advertising and Equal Access are Incompatible

“It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education.”

Nelson Mandela

The right to fair and equitable opportunities to succeed is a fundamental pillar of American life. Education plays a central role in affording those opportunities; however, our nation has not always met its egalitarian aspirations when it comes to access to post-secondary education. It’s hard to believe now, but not too long ago, race and gender were broadly considered acceptable reasons to refuse admission to many colleges.

Post-secondary education has evolved to open its doors more widely since then, but obstacles to fair and open access remain. The number of Black and Latinx young people with at least an associate’s degree still lags behind that of their white counterparts. A Department of Education report notes that the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit minority students, particularly male minority students, disproportionately.

There are myriad, complex reasons why inequalities still exist, and some are built right into the systems that are supposed to help all students. Simply put, many of the existing processes for applying to postsecondary education were created with middle-class (or higher), white applicants in mind. The world has changed, but the systems in place haven’t all kept up.

We believe it’s time to recognize that more change must happen. All students should be able to pursue the educations they desire, and we’re committed to making that happen, however, some of the platforms that claim to want to help students achieve their college dreams can actually hold them back with their advertising policies.

That’s a big claim, but the truth is that we’re so accustomed to the influence of online ads that it’s easy to overlook their power. Anyone who’s ever made a purchase online knows that the internet has an almost uncanny ability to shape our buying decisions. Have you ever decided to buy an item, done some initial research, and then noticed that your social media feeds were suddenly filled with ads for that exact item? It’s hard not to feel that your devices are eavesdropping, and, indeed, targeting you.

In today’s world of information overloading, career and college exploration platforms carry a large responsibility. Their job is to show students the vast possibilities in the world of work and post-secondary education, then give students the tools and skills to narrow down their options based on their personal preferences and goals.

Targeting ads for colleges at students based on factors like race changes that dynamic and sends the message that only certain colleges are appropriate for certain students. When that happens, the world is no longer wide open, but rather narrowed according to criteria that are outside a student’s control. Advertisers should not have that power, nor should any platform designed to educate students about their education and career choices.

At XAP, we strive to always empower students and their families to find opportunities they deem to be strong fits.  We will never enable targeted advertising to students on our platform; and specifically, we will not allow schools or employers to promote themselves only to students who fit a certain demographic profile.  We’re committed to supporting positive change in the systems that hold students back from achieving their dreams. We know it won’t be easy, but we’ll continue our mission to help students get the education they want – anywhere.

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