Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Digital access / Internet / STEM / Universities

Equity commitments abound in over $14M for Maryland HBCUs, day of digital inclusion programs in Annapolis

A mix of grants from the federal Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program and Baltimore Gas and Electric, along with a Digital Equity Day featuring state government leaders on March 14, demonstrate how access — to better high-speed internet access, as well as more STEM opportunities for HBCU students — remain a priority across Maryland.

Tyler Hall, on the campus of Morgan State University. (Photo by Flickr user Morgan State University, used via a Creative Commons license)

This editorial article is a part of Universities Month 2023 in Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.

From its biggest city to its most isolated regions, Maryland suffers from a lack of high-speed internet access and other inequities that disproportionately hurt the state’s Black residents. Here, we note three recent efforts through which federal agencies, local government leaders and a major utility provider are trying to promote more equitable access to broadband and STEM opportunities — starting with two that impact the state’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs):

U.S. Department of Commerce’s Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program awards millions in grants to HBCUs

The federal Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has granted over $7.1 million to the historically Black University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and Morgan State University through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, which is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Internet for All initiative.

The program’s objective is to expand high-speed internet access to underserved areas. These funds, which went to HBCUs across the country, were awarded on the heels of Coppin State University’s announcement that it would receive a $3.9 million federal grant through the program. The grant aims to provide 2,000 laptops to West Baltimoreans. An NTIA announcement outlines these plans and amounts for UMES’ and Morgan State’s latest awards:

  • “University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s ‘Rebuilding Our Digital Road: Digital Infrastructure Re-imagining’ project aims to expand broadband internet access and connectivity to connect UMES’s dynamic and innovative education and outreach programs with the broadband capacity that will support their value as roads for students and patrons to expand career pathways, education, and opportunities for economic mobility.”
    • For this effort, the Princess Anne, Maryland-based school received just under $3 million.
  • “Morgan State University’s ‘META (Miles of Education through Technology Access) Zones’ project aims to deliver novel and timely services to both students and local ‘hyper-disparity’ communities as well as reduce the digital divide amongst Morgan State students and the low-income communities the university has selected to serve.”
    • The federal government supported the Baltimore-based college’s project with $4.1 million.

Digital Equity Day Set to Take Place in Annapolis on March 14

Digital Equity Day, which shares a similar mission of promoting connectivity and digital equity as the aforementioned grants, will take place on Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Governor Calvert House in Annapolis.

The event is being organized by the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition (BDEC). In discussing the event’s scope, BDEC executive director Cody Dorsey mentioned how far digital equity efforts go beyond providing access to the internet, affordable devices and digital literacy skills; they can also create economic opportunities. He did note, however, that while BDEC looks forward to hosting events that promote digital equity for the community, participation in the Annapolis event is limited due to space capacity.

Dorsey also confirmed that Maryland’s Gov. Wes Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller will participate in the event. Three panel discussions have been confirmed:

  • “How Local Governments are Working to Increase Digital Inclusion” — moderated by Dr. Robert Wack, deputy health officer for the Carroll County Health Department and former president of the Westminster Common Council
  • “What Internet Service Providers Are Doing to Close the Digital Divide” — moderated by Kelly Schulz, CEO of the Maryland Tech Council
  • “Closing the Digital Skills Gap” — moderated by Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, senior fellow at the National Skills Coalition

Maryland HBCUs also get a $3 million boost from Baltimore Gas and Electric

Late last month, Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) announced that it would continue its partnerships with three Maryland HBCUs — Bowie State University, Coppin State University and Morgan State University — to award scholarships to full-time STEM majors. The BGE Scholars program, founded in 2021, will provide $1 million in grant funding to each school over four years, from 2023 to 2026.

The merit-based scholarship program will offer an annual commitment of $10,000 in scholarships to 15 students pursuing STEM disciplines, $50,000 in persistence grants available to any of those schools’ students and $50,000 in support of student and faculty-led research and innovation projects. In addition to the funding, BGE will also offer career development activities and events, including the Black Excellence in Energy speaker series, summer internship prioritization, mentors and job shadowing opportunities. Throughout his campaign, Gov. Moore continually expressed his commitment to providing all students across Maryland with a 21st-century education, college affordability, and investing in HBCUs.

“This $3 million investment from BGE to students studying at Morgan State, Coppin State, and Bowie State is centered on a priority that is crucial to the long-term competitiveness of our state: and that’s STEM education,” Gov. Moore said in a statement. “These scholarships will help provide our students with some of the financial security they need to complete their degrees and innovative research opportunities in the classroom that will set them up for success in their future careers. This effort pushes forward our administration’s goal to build a more equitable state, where no one is left behind.”

Companies: Bowie State University / U.S. Department of Commerce / Coppin State University / Morgan State University / University of Maryland / State of Maryland
Series: Universities Month 2023
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