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USDA Grant Funding To Help Bridge the Educational Divide in Rural Virginia

Barbara Bowen
Release Date
Student using laptop for distance learning.

RICHMOND, Va., Nov. 30, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is taking steps to level out the learning curve for Virginia students by investing $2.4 million in four projects to help educational institutions deliver instruction via videoconferencing.

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants awarded to the following organizations will support expansion of critical instructional and support services in Southern, Central and Southwest Virginia communities:

  • Lee County Public Schools is receiving a $740,793 grant to equip one hub site and 11 hub/end-user sites throughout the county with interactive teleconferencing equipment to help instructors deliver resources, professional development courses, and mental health services to 5,545 students in 11 locations.
  • Germanna Community College will use the $952,388 in funding to establish five hubs and five end-user sites in Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange, Culpepper, Wise, Page, and Madison counties with video conferencing equipment to help instructors provide mental health and healthcare educational courses to 5,372 students in five locations.
  • Southside Virginia Community College will set up six hub/end user sites in Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Charlotte, Nottoway and Greensville counties with the $475,122 grant. The synchronous interactive video conferencing system will enable instructors at six campuses to deliver nursing and emergency management services simulation labs, and shared college courses to 2,805 students.
  • Virginia State University is receiving $315,514 to outfit two hubs and 13 end-user sites in Petersburg, Roanoke, Prince George, Sussex, Dinwiddie, Henry, Southampton, Franklin, Halifax, Louisa, Brunswick, Greensville and Mecklenburg counties with integrated interactive college teaching rooms and high school Neat boards to support the delivery of dual credit college courses to 183,288 students in 13 locations.

“Distance learning opportunities provided through these grants will help break down barriers between rural people and the world at large,” said Perry Hickman, USDA Rural Development Virginia State Director. “The health and educational services delivered remotely will not only deliver a more collaborative learning experience for nearly 200,000 students but also equip them for future success.”

The DLT program is targeted to rural areas with populations 20,000 or fewer people. Funds can be used to purchase or support audio, video, and interactive video equipment; broadband facilities for distance learning or telemedicine (up to a certain percentage); computer hardware, network components, and software; and instructional programming. Resources can also be allocated for limited technical assistance and instruction on using distance learning and telemedicine equipment.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans 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, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov. Visit our GovDelivery subscriber page to receive regular USDA Rural Development updates.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.