South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has awarded US$6 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds to the University of South Carolina, who, in partnership with Benedict College, will establish eight Apple computer labs statewide.
The labs will be strategically located for use by local school districts, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the South Carolina Technical College System and citizens in the community.
“The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that internet access is not a luxury but a necessity for millions of South Carolinians,” said McMaster. “The strategic placement of these labs will bolster South Carolina’s premier workforce training efforts by giving our communities and people access to resources they need to expand participation in our state’s growing economy.”
The collaboration will build a new network of learning labs that will feature Apple products and curricula. The network will include hubs in Columbia’s BullStreet District and at Benedict College, along with satellite labs at six of UofSC’s Palmetto College and regional campuses. UofSC Palmetto College campuses are all located within 15 miles or less of a broadband desert, according to the South Carolina Broadband Map, providing reliable technology and Internet access to these communities, McMaster added.
“As the state’s flagship institution, the University of South Carolina is committed to enhancing statewide economic and workforce development initiatives,” said UofSC President Bob Caslen. “By providing access to Apple’s coding curriculum and emphasizing creative learning, this partnership is a game changer for our state. The educational programs and training at these learning centers will give South Carolinians relevant skills that are in high demand in today’s economy. We are proud to partner with Governor McMaster, Apple and Benedict College in this mission by investing in underserved communities across the state.”
The campuses will provide computer lab space, maintenance, and utilities. Each site will be available for use by faculty, staff, students, and community members regularly at no cost to the user. Availability of lab access will be advertised in each community, including through each local chamber of commerce and economic development board.
The one-time grants are funded by monies received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump and allocated directly to each governor. Each state received an allocation for a GEER fund. South Carolina’s share of GEER funds was $48 million.