Temple, Texas, Mar 21, 2012 -- Officials from USDA Rural Development, the American Association of Community Colleges and the Rural Community College Association recently signed an agreement to strengthen the rural economy by increasing rural residents’ access to skills training and higher education. Community colleges play an important role in the journey to higher education for many rural students who are not able or willing to move away to universities.
“USDA Rural Development in Texas is committed to providing our rural community colleges with needed support to maintain their presence in our economy,” said Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development Texas State Director. “Community Colleges have increasingly tighter budgets each year. We have programs that can be powerful tools for providing expanded educational opportunities which otherwise may be unavailable to these students.”
The USDA Community Facilities Program can provide colleges with loans and grants to construct and renovate classrooms and dormitories, and to purchase school student transportation vehicles. Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants can cover the cost of video conferencing and distance learning equipment. The Community Connect program provides grants to build broadband infrastructure and establish community centers that bring internet service to rural areas, allowing residents access to online education, employment training and worldwide resources. Each of these programs give rural students opportunities larger, more urban schools have readily accessible. This will enhance the quality of education in rural schools and allow these students to become more competitive in the job market.
For example, USDA Rural Development worked with the Northeast Texas Community College District with funding for an educational outreach center by utilizing the Community Facilities Program. The newly funded 6,558 square foot center is located on the Pittsburg campus in Camp County. It consists of five classrooms, including a computer lab, conference room and a commercial kitchen.
USDA Rural Development also worked with Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins to secure funds for a new dormitory and to refinance existing debt on their other dorms. In order to remain competitive and to provide for future growth, the college was in need of additional on-campus residential housing. The new dorm can house approximately 300 students during the school year.
The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum Foundation also recently received a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant to connect the museum to Cisco College, three rural Texas school districts, and a New York State school district. By linking to Cisco College, the participating rural schools can also receive distance learning courses, including dual enrollment, math, science and technology classes and can engage in more rigorous class schedules. The college also offers vocational courses and teaches a variety of health programs using their multidisciplinary simulation lab.
USDA Rural Development strives to see that rural citizens can participate fully in the global economy through programs that are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Funding through our programs is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of agreement. Further information on the programs and the application process can be found at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UTP_DLT.html or http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/tx.