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University of Providence-Lewistown to Benefit from USDA Investment to Expand Rural Education

Shelby Johnsen
Release Date

Montana State Director for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Charles Robison today announced that USDA is investing in a University of Providence distance learning project. USDA is providing the funding through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.

   “This award will have a wide-spread impact on rural Montana, improving the education received by our students,” Robison said. “Investing in rural infrastructure and broadband access are priorities for President Trump, improving the quality of life in our communities. When rural Montana thrives, all of Montana thrives.”

   USDA Rural Development has awarded a $441,357 DLT grant to the University of Providence to install a distance learning system to deliver advanced classes and educate nurses and nursing students in rural Montana. The system will serve the University of Providence campus in Lewistown and provide state-of-the-art distance video and learning technologies to strengthen and extend its clinical education, distance learning access, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) support capability. There is a regional need to improve STEM education to address rural workforce shortages.

   Deborah A. Burton, PhD, MN, RN, FAAN, Vice President, School of Health Professions, at the University of Providence said, "This grant provides an unprecedented opportunity to deliver the highest quality academic clinical education to rural and placebound students in our state, and to build a future Montana nursing workforce that mirrors the population: rural students, Native American students, and students who plan to stay and practice in our most rural communities.  We are so excited to partner with rural Central Montana communities, Salish Kootenai College, and clinical simulation experts who will help us deliver distance and clinical simulation education to remote and placebound students. Most of all, we look forward to helping build the future rural Montana clinical workforce through partnering with Central Montana high schools to expose promising rural students to health careers, and to help them gain access to academic education in nursing and other health careers."

   The distance learning system will also allow University of Providence in Lewistown to serve as a hub for providing distance learning capabilities for Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation and eight rural Montana high schools. Students in Salish Kootenai College’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Associate Degree Nursing programs will gain access to essential and needed healthcare education to promote healthcare workforce growth. The USDA grant will enable increased enrollment and program capacity while maintaining program quality. The rural high schools include: Denton High School, Fergus High School, Geyser High School, Grass Range High School, Judith Gap High School, Roundup High School, Ryegate High School, and Winifred High School. The distance learning technology will promote strengthened academic and clinical programs. The project will reach six Montana counties and serve an estimated 854 high school students and 20 Tribal College students.

   Applicants eligible for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants include most State and local governmental entities, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, for-profit businesses and consortia of eligible entities.

   In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

   To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

   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 facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/mt.