The $193,786 grant will be provided through United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Distance Learning and Tele-medicine Program.
The grant will allow the college to offer distance learning and allied health training project to high schools located in Benavides, Karnes City, Pettus, Skidmore and Woodsboro, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced.
Coastal Bend College already offers distance learning and allied health courses at some local high schools, including A.C. Jones High School in Beeville.
“The Obama administration is working to ensure that rural citizens have access to a full range of educational opportunities and access to quality medical care,” Vilsack said. “The funding we are announcing today will deliver these opportunities by expanding telecommunications, educational resources and computer networks throughout rural communities.”
A total of 111 projects in 35 states have been selected to receive more than $34.9 million in USDA rural development distance learning and tele-medicine program grants that will increase educational opportunities and access to health care services in rural areas.
Five projects in Texas have been selected to receive $1,443,395.
“Schools and health care providers in rural Texas have increasingly tighter budgets,” said Paco Valentin, USDA rural development state director of Texas. “Grants such as these are powerful tools for providing expanded educational and health care opportunities which otherwise may be unavailable.”
The rural development funds will be used to link nine rural schools with two campuses of Coastal Bend College via videoconferencing. The focus of this project is on providing health-related training to address the shortage of health care providers.
Coastal Bend College President Dr. Thomas Baynum said the college is required to put up $180,000 or so of its own money to receive the federal grant.
CBC has pledged to put some $290,000 toward its distance learning program in order to receive the grant, he explained.
Hundreds of high school students presently enroll in the college’s distance learning program. The grant will allow CBC to offer the program to many more students each semester, Baynum said.
Students enrolled in the distance learning program are required to pay the tuition, course fees and distance learning fees, Baynum said.
He said the federal grant is a perfect opportunity for the college to expand its distance learning program without funding the entire expansion itself.
“Keeping our rural communities updated with the latest technology is important to the health and education of the residents,” said U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, whose 15th Congressional District includes Bee County. “This grant will ensure that rural citizens have access to a full range of educational opportunities and access to quality medical care.”
These funds are part of USDA’s annual budget and are not part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Vilsack reported.