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USDA Invests in Projects to Expand Rural Education and Health Care Access

Justin Wilkes
Release Date

State Director for Rural Development John Rounsaville today announced that USDA is investing in 133 distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and two U.S. territories. USDA is providing the funding through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.  Five organizations in Mississippi have been selected for investments totaling $1,980,417.

   The DLT program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. For example, this program can link teachers and medical service providers in one area to students and patients in another.  Applicants eligible for DLT grants include most State and local governmental entities, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, for-profit businesses and consortia of eligible entities.

   “Applications go through a nationally competitive process, so we’re extremely proud that five organizations were selected in Mississippi,” Rounsaville said.  “This program is another step forward in bridging the gap that exists between urban and rural communities’ technological capabilities and will benefit them by improving access to health care services, educational programs, and workforce development, which are all vital to community and economic development.”

In Mississippi, the following applicants received funding:

  • Mississippi State University received an award of $488,315.  This investment will enable Mississippi State University to implement new video conferencing and cloud-based equipment that will be updated at 93 sites in 82 counties in Mississippi.  These investments will enable participants in Extension Offices and Experiment Stations to deliver educational programming to interactive audiences.  This project will benefit an estimated 28,500 residents, students, extension educators and faculty.
  • Mississippi Community College Board received an award of $319,343.  This investment will be used to purchase virtual reality (VR) equipment will be used to prepare students for careers in coding, programming and software development. Equipment will be installed in Coahoma, Copiah, Kemper, Hinds, Jones, Stone, George, Prentiss and Tate counties in Mississippi.  The project will benefit an estimated 20,645 students and faculty. 
  • Covington County School District received an award of $480,628.  This investment will assist the Covington County Office of Superintendent in implementing a new project designed to provide curriculum and teacher sharing including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content (STEM).  The project included 8 sites in Covington County Mississippi and will provide 2,899 students and 225 teachers access to fixed site interactive video systems and touch panels to create an environment for sharing and collaboration between project sites.
  • Coahoma Community College received an award $200,000. This investment will enable Coahoma Community College to install a distance learning system to connect the college to high schools in Coahoma, Tallahatchie, and Quitman counties in Mississippi. The project will also provide career focused programs leading to college credit and workforce certifications by enabling rural students to obtain college credits before leaving high school, helping to offset college costs. This project will serve an estimated population of 24,928 students.
  • Base Camp Coding Academy received an award of $492,131.  This investment will allow Base Camp Coding Academy (BCCA) to connect the resources of the Northwest Mississippi Community College (NWCC) campus in Senatobia, Mississippi with the rural community of Water Valley, Mississippi to improve educational opportunities available to approximately 11,500 residents of Yalobusha and Tate Counties, Mississippi. Distance Learning capabilities at BCCA's facility will expand the opportunities for local students, at two end-user sites, to pursue dual enrollment, advance placement, and accelerated courses in STEM areas, as well as allow community members to access GED programs and workforce or higher-education training that is currently unavailable anywhere else in Yalobusha County. Additionally, students on the Senatobia campus of NWCC will gain access to the industry-leading computer science and coding programs that BCCA has developed in Water Valley.

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