District to receive funding for community tech gaps

Cyber Center Stephanie
Photo by Stephanie Martinez | el Don

Rancho Santiago Community College District is working with various partners to improve digital access and literacy to district students and the surrounding communities after receiving $2 million in earmark funding from congress.

RSCCD will use the money to help address the “digital divide,” a term that originated in the 90’s from Lloyd Morrisett to define the inequity between those who have access to essential technology and those who do not. 

“We’re looking to identify the gaps, it’s called the consortium. It’s not just Santa Ana College and [the district], we’ve brought in all the stakeholders in the community so you’re talking nonprofits, businesses, students, everything to identify where those gaps are,” explained Enrique Perez, Vice Chancellor of Educational Services.

In addition to the $2 million in federal funding, the district will also receive at least an additional $ 2 million through commitments from local small business development centers, workforce boards, and city governments, though the details are still in progress. 

The federal money comes from earmark funds, made available recently for the first time in 15 years. Earmarks differ from most federal funding because they are only available for specific projects and go directly from the federal government to the communities they will benefit, instead of being funneled through other organizations or agencies.

Congressman Lou Correa, who is up for re-election in November, advocated for the funds to be distributed to the two community colleges in his district. 

“I would propose that being digitally competent will help other issues around us, kind of the center of spokes on the wheel,” Correa, who represents district 46, said during a press event about why he chose to focus on technology instead of issues like homelessness or food insecurity. 

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While Correa presented a ceremonial check during a press conference in April, the district has about another six months before the funding will actually be available. 

Before then, district Chancellor Marvin Martinez said they will start preparing for when the money becomes available. A survey was distributed to students through email and their Canvas course dashboards

“The next step now is to get together with the department where that money is coming from so we can begin to put together, in essence, the contract and we can get started,” said Martinez.

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