The Digital Divide Project will focus on individuals that are most vulnerable to social and economic barriers that could derail their efforts toward success in education and business. The proposed project would convene a collaborative of educational, community, workforce, and economic development leaders to create digital resource centers to expand access to computers, internet services, digital literacy training, and individualized skill-development tools. Additionally, the project will provide flexible and accessible career education for in-demand occupations in the region that are part of career pathways, and will provide digital marketing and e-commerce programs for small businesses—with targeted outreach to minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
The news of funding comes as a welcomed surprise, as earmark requests were brought back into practice last year, after a decade hiatus. With new presidential leadership and the enduring pandemic, the opportunity to reserve funding for people and programs was extremely attractive to organizations and institutions. While universities typically dominated the higher education earmark requests, community colleges have begun to receive funding for projects that are helping students with the utmost needs.
Chancellor Marvin Martinez expressed great enthusiasm for the potential funding, “The Board of Trustees alongside RSCCD faculty and staff work to partner with our elected officials to support our students, employees, and community with the most pressing needs. Thanks to the leadership of Congressman Lou Correa, the needs of our students are being prioritized at the federal level. The prospect of millions to fund programs that address issues such as the digital divide is a feat worth touting.”
Congressman Lou Correa (CA-46) is proud to be able to advocate for the funds to support students throughout RSCCD and said, “We must continue to invest in our youth’s education and workforce development. The future of our nation will depend on how well we prepare our children and workers to be competitive in the next decade.” He continued with, “A well trained workforce in digital and cyber will be key to keeping America’s worldwide competitive edge.”
The timing for the proposed funding is opportune, as the digital divide has seemingly increased as a result of the pandemic for all students, including the most vulnerable who were already experiencing academic barriers related to food and housing insecurities.
Lorena Chavez, Interim Dean of Instruction and Student Services at Santa Ana College said,
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a call to action to address the digital divide experienced by our students in Santa Ana. Our noncredit students felt the direct impact when they suddenly and unexpectedly lost access to technology and education. For some, the pandemic has had catastrophic consequences resulting in lost wages and employment. Our response to address the digital divide is guided by our core value of access, equity, and opportunity for the most vulnerable in our community. We celebrate this opportunity to expand access for our students and support their educational and professional goals.”
HR 2471 was approved by the House and Senate last week and is on the way to the President’s desk for signature.
About Rancho Santiago Community College District
Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College are public community colleges of the Rancho Santiago Community College District, which serves the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Santa Ana, Villa Park, and portions of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, and Tustin. Both colleges provide education for academic transfer and careers, courses for personal and professional development, and customized training for business and industry.