The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced on Dec. 16 its award of five grants – totaling over $18.5 million – to minority-serving institutions as part of the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program.

The grants will expand community technology hubs, upgrade classroom technology, and increase digital literacy skills at California State University, Dominguez Hills; California State University, Fresno; Lincoln University of Missouri; Southern University and A&M College; and University of West Alabama.

“Minority-serving institutions are driving digital skills education and workforce development programs for communities across the country, and that’s why they need resources,” said Kevin Hughes, acting director of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives.

“This program provides the skills, devices, and connectivity for these colleges and universities that will improve their students’ lives and create jobs in local communities,” Hughes said.

The CMC program is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Internet for All initiative that aims to “connect everyone in America with affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service,” the press release said.

This program specifically directs $268 million from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 for expanding high-speed internet access and connectivity to eligible historically Black colleges or universities, Tribal colleges or universities, and minority-serving institutions.

The CMC grants cover costs such as the purchase of high-speed internet service and eligible equipment, hiring and training of information technology personnel, and innovation and workforce development efforts.

California State University, Dominguez Hills was awarded more than $5 million to promote digital equity by providing access and training in digital technologies for students.

Similarly, California State University, Fresno was given more than $2 million in grants to provide educational offerings, training, and career resources to increase digital literacy and skills to students to prepare them for entry into the IT-cybersecurity workforce.

Nearly $3 million was granted to Lincoln University of Missouri to provide students with laptops and hotspots to remove a significant barrier to accessing educational resources and support for many students.

The CMC program awarded Southern University and A&M College over $6 million to reduce the digital divide by forming a K-12 workforce pipeline to engage middle school teacher candidates, clinical educators, and university faculty and students with interactive virtual reality spaces and tools in innovative instruction efforts and workforce training.

Finally, the University of West Alabama was granted over $1.5 million to enhance broadband access, capacity, and adoption, and increase digital skills through a collaborative partnership of key stakeholders.

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