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Kent State Wins Grants for Distance Learning in Rural Areas

Distance learning grants from the United States Department of Agriculture will expand educational opportunities for middle and high school students in rural areas to take college-level courses.

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(TNS) — Kent State University's Geauga and Ashtabula campuses will receive more than half-a-million dollars from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Two years ago, KSU's Geauga and Ashtabula campuses applied for an expansive distance learning grant from the federal government.

Now, the university is poised to bring rural Geauga and Ashtabula counties the latest technological advancements in education, medicine and workforce development.

"We saw this grant as an opportunity to innovate and offer more educational opportunities to students within our communities," said Lance Williams, director of operations and special projects for KSU's Geauga campus and Twinsburg Academic Center (TAC). "Our collective vision positioned this grant to serve as a nexus between local schools, libraries and the workforce."

Williams sought $428,091 for the Geauga campus through Connecting Ohioans in Rural Areas Through Distance Learning, a grant funded through the USDA.

With $64,214 (representing a 15 percent match) in additional funding from KSU, the total amount for this project is $492,305 — making it the largest federal competitive grant that Kent State Geauga has ever received, according to college officials.

Kent State Ashtabula received $156,955 in USDA grant funds for a total budget of $180,499 with matching funds. The total of the joint grant project between the two campuses is $585,046.

"This grant allows for a great opportunity to expand our curriculum to libraries and schools in the rural areas of our county, providing synchronous distance learning for adult learners and high school College Credit Plus (CCP) students," said Kevin Deemer, Kent State Ashtabula assistant dean.

The USDA grant program exists to help rural communities use distance learning to connect to each other — and to the world. It promises to help bridge the digital divide common in rural areas, where bandwidth is inadequate compared to more densely populated communities.

Locally, this project will expand educational opportunities for middle and high school students who take college-level courses that count toward their high school diploma and college degree.

"Transportation, weather conditions, and distance are some of the barriers to attending college classes for many families and students living in Ashtabula County," said Kent State Ashtabula Library Director Amy Thomas, who was a co-principal investigator on the grant project. "It is the hope that a distance learning project like this one will help alleviate these concerns."

Kent State Geauga has partnered with three Geauga County libraries, along with Berkshire Local Schools, Great Lakes Cheese and University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center.

Ashtabula grant partners include Andover Public Library, Kingsville Public Library, Pierpont Township Board of Trustees, Grand Valley Local School District, Pymatuning Valley Local School District and SPIRE Institute. They will coordinate to connect resources to the residents of Ashtabula County.

This grant effectively launches the rural communities of Geauga and Ashtabula counties into a three-year period of increased access and opportunity.

"We are pleased that Kent State University at Ashtabula is included, along with Kent State Geauga, as recipients of this grant," said KSU Ashtabula Dean and Chief Administrative Officer Susan J. Stocker. "We have a mission to extend access to higher education and provide opportunity for learning and development to help better the lives of people in our communities."

©2022 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.