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USDA Invests in Education for 11,200 Rural Oregon Students

Erin McDuff
Release Date

Approximately 11,200 rural Oregon students will receive access to distance learning opportunities with the help of nearly $840,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development announced Oregon State Director John Huffman today. The funding is being provided through USDA's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program.

"Many rural students have to travel long distances to attend school," said Huffman. "This investment will give students the ability to access classes remotely, helping to improve their quality of life and starting them on the path toward a college degree."

Columbia Gorge Community College will establish a dual-credit distance learning program for rural students in the Columbia River Gorge with help from a $489,623 grant. Specialized classrooms will be developed at 13 high schools in Gilliam, Sherman, Wasco, and Wheeler counties in Oregon and in Klickitat and Skamania counties in Washington. Additionally, two broadcasting rooms from which classes will be taught will be created on the Columbia Gorge Community College campuses in Hood River and Wasco counties. This multi-year project will initially serve the region's 2,499 high school students and will eventually be expanded to benefit all 8,096 students in the region's rural schools.

Willamina School District 30J will implement a distance learning program with help from a $340,000 grant from USDA. The program will offer science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes, telemedicine training, and dual credit options for students in rural Yamhill, Polk, and Tillamook counties, including students from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. Overall, this program will help about 3,100 community members access education opportunities remotely using telecommunications technology.

Nationwide, USDA is investing $42.5 million in 133 distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and two U.S. territories. These investments will benefit 5.4 million rural residents. The funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their grant agreements.

The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunication to overcome the effects of remoteness and link teachers and medical service providers in one area to students and patients in another. Most state and local government entities, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses are eligible to apply. Typically, one application period is offered each year.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing, community facilities such as schools, public safety, and healthcare facilities; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. Learn more at www.rd.usda.gov/or.