FRMINGTON — The Commerce Department’s National Communications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced last month that a federal grant sent Denis College $2.9 million to fund high-speed Internet programs.
“Diné College is one of five colleges and universities serving minority groups to receive scholarships totaling $10,642,577.03,” NTIA said in a press release. The grants will be used to fund Internet access, equipment, and the hiring and training of IT staff.
The scholarship was among the first in the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program and will affect all of the college’s campuses, including the one at Shiprock.
“Improving technology for students and the surrounding community has been and will continue to be a major priority for Dennis College,” Charles Russell, President of Denis College, said in a college news release.
Projects will include classroom technology upgrades, a community technology center modernization, workforce training for economic growth, and digital literacy skills, the college statement said.
“We knew we had to expand our services beyond our campuses and centers into the Navajo Nation, and a portion of that funding would allow us to fund broadband services via reservation. We will also invest in our employees, because the people behind the Behind the scenes is what makes any project succeed.”
The college statement said Diné College is a post-secondary educational institution that awards associate’s degrees, baccalaureate degrees, and certificates “in areas important to the economic and social development of the Navajo Nation.”
The main campus is located in Tsaile (Tséhílí), Arizona. The school’s website said there are campuses in Window Rock, Chinle and Tuba City for Arizona residents and a “sub-campus in Shiprock and a location in Crownpoint” serving New Mexico residents.
“Other grant recipients include Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic Service Institutions (HSI), and Minority Service Institutions (MSIs) throughout the United States,” the statement read.
“The American minority serving colleges and universities are primary educational centers that are often left behind when it comes to affordable high-speed Internet access,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Greaves. “The Connect Minority Communities Pilot Program enables these institutions to be a source of access, digital skills training, and workforce development programs for students and the community to help level economic opportunity.”
The Commerce Department statement said Denneh College will use the money to “improve educational and economic opportunities in the Navajo Nation by improving Internet access, providing more devices, and investing in information technology personnel.”
“Access to computers and a reliable Internet is critical to student success in the classroom. This scholarship will ensure Deneh College students access to new laptops, mobile hotspots, and print kiosks, as well as professional development training,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly ( D-AZ). “We will continue to work to bridge the digital divide for the Navajo Nation’s next generation of leaders and innovators.”
The pilot program to connect minority communities is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Internet for All initiative. $268 million is allocated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to expand access to high-speed Internet and connectivity at colleges and universities eligible to receive these funds.