Apple Partners w/Benedict College, USC And Gov For South Carolina Education Initiative

Today Governor Henry McMaster announced that the University of South Carolina system and Benedict College are working with Apple to provide critical infrastructure support to students and communities throughout South Carolina, who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Governor McMaster approved the use of $6 million out of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund – part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 – to provide underserved communities additional resources, including technology and educational programing, to help those whose education or economic situation has been disrupted by COVID-19.

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 sites of UofSC’s regional Palmetto College 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. These labs supplement the statewide efforts undertaken by the Office of Regulatory Staff, which utilized CARES Act funds to expand broadband technology to over 100 South Carolina schools and over 200 communities. This initiative reflects a statewide effort to level the playing field and ensure that all South Carolinians have access to top-tier computing and educational resources.

UofSC serves the entire state of South Carolina, and this investment in traditionally underserved communities reflects that mission. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted these communities and has made the issue of access to technologies such as broadband even more apparent. Studies have confirmed that students from economically stressed areas are more likely to be attending school remotely during the pandemic. By leveraging the expertise of the UofSC system and Benedict College, students and community members will be able to take advantage of educational programming designed to close the computer literacy and skills gap.

Each of the campuses will provide computer lab space and will design educational programming to serve the communities in which they reside. The collaboration chose Apple products including Mac and iPad to facilitate ease of use and access to unique curricula and experiences that will power the future workforce, including coding and app development, creativity and content creation. Each site will be available for use by faculty, staff, students, and community members on a regular and recurring basis at no cost. Availability of the labs and programs will be advertised in each community. Indeed, it was the focus on community impact which drove UofSC and Benedict College to partner and propose this initiative to Governor McMaster.

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