Campus News

Keeping students connected

The University is providing funding for students with limited internet access to help them succeed in online courses.

A student taking notes while watching a lecture online.
(Shutterstock image)

Up to 2,500 students will receive an additional $200 supplement to help with internet costs during the fall 2020 semester. The new supplement is the result of a collaboration between Information Technology Services, the Commission on Campus Equality & Student Equity, Student Government, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid.

Students qualify for the supplement if they are taking all their courses remotely, are not in an established, fully online degree program, are living off campus and are currently receiving need-based financial aid.

“We will be prioritizing students who have financial needs but do not qualify for federal aid (such as international students) or students with demonstrated financial need who are taking the majority of their course work remotely but may also have a hybrid or in-person class and are still struggling with connectivity,” said Associate Provost Rachelle Feldman, whose Office of Scholarships and Student Aid is identifying students in need of the supplement.

A reliable internet connection is imperative to remote learning, especially for students enrolled in Carolina Away, the University’s program that allows new first-year or transfer students to take digital courses and participate in small-group experiences with classmates, faculty and staff entirely online. Many students who have chosen to take courses remotely live in areas of North Carolina with few options for internet access.

“Access to broadband internet is a national problem, but within our state specifically there are people from certain regions and socioeconomic means who have limited internet and cellular options,” said J. Michael Barker, the University’s vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer. “While the University cannot solve the systematic problems of the digital divide, we can supply students with funds to purchase the best service that is available to them.”

To fund the supplement, Barker’s team in Information Technology Services reallocated existing funding designated for regular classroom technology upgrades.

“We were mindful that these funds would normally have been used to install new technology in academic buildings on campus to facilitate a better learning process for students, but that it could better serve that purpose this semester by ensuring that students have the tools they need to learn remotely this semester,” said Barker.

Concerned that their peers would not have the means necessary for succeeding in the fall semester, the Commission on Campus Equality & Student Equity initiated the conversation with campus leaders about supplying students with an internet resource. When the supplement was announced, the Commission’s members were pleased with the speed in which funding was found and allocated for the supplement.

“I am thankful for the work of the excellent leaders who sit on the Commission for authoring the formal proposal for the internet initiative, and the willingness of the Office of Information Technology Services and the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid to work with us to develop this program so quickly,” said Lamar Richards, a sophomore and chair of the Commission on Campus Equality & Student Equity. “This program is the first step in ensuring that Carolina students, my peers, are afforded equitable resources to aid in their pursuit of academic and professional successes during the fall 2020 semester.”

Students who were not originally awarded the supplement may submit a request via a form on the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid website while funds last.