he U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded the Vermont State Colleges System a $388,988 grant to enhance their distance learning capabilities. Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that USDA is awarding grants for broadband projects to increase access to job training, educational and health care services in rural areas in 35 states.
“Distance Learning technology has the potential to close the geographic divide faced by rural America and bring resources to communities that are not readily available,” said Acting State Director for Vermont and New Hampshire Jon-Michael Muise. “I applaud the leadership at the Vermont State College System and Northern Vermont University for pursuing an innovative solution to extend educational resources to rural communities across the state and the country.”
The USDA Rural Development grant will help the Vermont State Colleges System create a distance learning network to connect Northern Vermont University, comprised of Johnson State College and Lyndon State College, to Sinte Gleska University, Lower Brule Community College and Ihanktonwan Community College in South Dakota and to 28 Vermont high schools. A mix of fixed and mobile video conferencing technology will increase course offerings to students, such as dual-credit college courses. It also will provide increased professional development opportunities for instructors and extend these opportunities to individuals in public service agencies, such as police officers and firefighters.
Nationwide, USDA is awarding 72 grants totaling $23.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. This program funds equipment that uses broadband to help rural communities connect to advanced learning and specialized medical services. The 2017 grant recipients include organizations seeking to address two of the nation’s most urgent needs: opioid abuse treatment and mental health counseling.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.