USDA distance learningU.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Dave Conine announced USDA is investing $339,480 in two Utah projects to expand distance learning opportunities in rural parts of the state.

“Utah’s rural residents deserve the same access to quality education as those in urban areas,” Conine said. “One rapidly growing way to reach them is through distance learning technologies. These grants will help expand those technologies to the far corners of our state and improve our overall educational advancement.”

The grants are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program. They may be used to purchase equipment to provide educational and telemedicine services to rural communities.

One of the recipients, the San Juan Foundation in Blanding, is receiving a $86,739 grant for interactive video teleconferencing and audio-visual equipment to be installed in 4 foundation-owned Family Learning Centers where broadband distance learning opportunities did not previously exist. This project will offer pre-kindergarten, K-12, post-secondary, and adult education curricula at each Family Learning Center.

Blanding has recently been named one of ten rural and tribal communities from across the country that is participating in a new Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (IMPACT) Demonstration. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is administering the Demonstration, which is aimed at  helping communities adopt a comprehensive, whole-family framework for addressing child poverty, such as through facilitating physical colocation of services, universal “no wrong door” intake, referral networks, shared measurement systems, and use of technology to deliver services. The San Juan Foundation submitted a letter of interest to participate.

Utah State University is also receiving a DLT grant of $252,741 to further distance learning efforts by expanding in the southeast portion of the project’s service area. Members of the Navajo Nation (Montezuma Creek) will also be able to take college courses that lead to advanced degrees.  The project will benefit 9 counties.

Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

Since 2009, USDA has provided more than $213 million in loans and grants for 634 distance learning and telemedicine projects in rural areas nationwide.