Jefferson City – The Missouri Department of Higher Education has been awarded a $4.9 million grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to establish or expand 23 public computer centers in geographic areas that serve vulnerable populations. MDHE will collaborate with seven community colleges to launch the expanded services.

The computer centers will be “one-stop technology centers” for populations currently underserved by broadband internet. The funds will provide about 600 new workstations and 130 more computers in 19 new computer centers and four upgraded centers. Some centers will be located on campus, while others will be in workforce training centers, education centers and even a mobile unit.
Community colleges participating in the grant are:

  • Jefferson College
  • Metropolitan Community College
  • Mineral Area College
  • Moberly Area Community College
  • Ozarks Technical College
  • St. Louis Community College
  • Three Rivers Community College

All of the areas to be served have high poverty and high unemployment rates. The public computer centers will offer courses in basic digital literacy to help prepare unemployed and underemployed workers for jobs. Over a two year period, almost 6,000 users will be trained in basic digital literacy at the centers. An additional 78,000 community college students will have access to the public computer centers.

David Russell, Interim Commissioner of Higher Education, says the grant has far-reaching potential to prepare Missourians for the work force.

“Missouri has more than 15,000 entry-level job openings per year that require the ability to use computers effectively,” Russell says. “By locating the centers at community colleges and underserved areas around the state, we can reach populations that may have been passed over by technological advances and give them real skills to earn a living wage.”

The grant was awarded as part of the $7.2 billion provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand access to broadband services in the United States.