Press Release - USM HBIs to Receive $400K Each for Student Computers
August 20, 2002
USM HBIs to Receive $400K Each for Student Computers
New state efforts to assist the University System of Maryland's (USM) three
historically black institutions (HBIs) in bridging the "digital
divide" - the gap between those who can and cannot afford computers for
use in their education - will be announced at a special ceremony on Wednesday,
August 21 at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of Bowie State's newly opened Center
for Learning & Technology.
Dr. Calvin Burnett, president of Coppin State College, Dr. Thelma B.
Thompson, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), and Dr.
Calvin Lowe, president of Bowie State University will join USM Chancellor
William E. Kirwan, USM Board of Regents Chairman Nathan A. Chapman, Jr., Regents
Vice Chairman Charles R. Larson, Regents Technology Committee Chairman William
T. Wood, Maryland Secretary of Higher Education Karen Johnson, and Lt. Gov.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to celebrate the awarding of $400,000 to each of the
three institutions. The $1.2 million initiative will result in the purchase of
nearly 900 laptop computers for use by students with significant financial need.
These students now have to rely on computers owned by friends or families, or
computers located in libraries and similar public spaces. Eligible students will
either own a computer for the duration of their time at the institution, or
check out a laptop from the library on a per-semester basis.
The Technology Committee, working with the USM information technology staff,
recently determined that thousands of students across the USM cannot afford
computers. This digital divide is particularly acute at the three historically
black campuses, where approximately half of the students report financial
constraints that prevent them from purchasing a personal computer. Last January,
the full Board approved the USM Digital Divide Initiative (DDI), a phased-in
plan to close the divide. The initial $1.2 million is the first time that state
funds have been used by the USM to put computers in the hands of students on the
basis of need.
Chapman, who has often spoken about the need for more computers for the USM
institutions, said the state funding represents a "great start" for
closing the digital divide.
"I graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County just as
the personal computer was gaining in popularity, and in my professional life I
have seen them revolutionize the workplace," he said. "Today, I can't
imagine succeeding as a student without having a computer at the ready. For the
sake of those who are on our campuses to learn, we must eliminate the
Wood, who championed the DDI and encouraged public support for its funding,
said he was gratified to see it receive attention despite the tough economic
"Maryland's public institutions are forging ahead because of growing
public support," he said. "Funding the DDI demonstrates the depth and
breadth of that support, and sends a message that quality public higher
education is an investment in the future."
Chancellor Kirwan, a member of the National Commission on Mathematics and
Science Teaching for the 21st Century and former chair of the National
Research Council's Commission on the Mathematical Sciences in the Year 2000,
said the DDI represents a bold approach to resolving a long-standing issue.
"College professors from practically any discipline will tell you that
computer access has become a major concern on campuses across the country,"
Kirwan said. "Not only can computers improve a student's ability to write
and communicate, but they represent the keys to the kingdom in terms of research
and understanding. The student who uses his or her computer effectively will
come out of a classroom or laboratory better prepared to meet the challenges of
the working world. In turn, those who do not have access to this vital tool are
held back, in spite of their abilities. That's not fair, and through this
program we're doing something about it."
"A computer is an absolute necessity in any college environment,"
Townsend said. "It's a basic tool for a 21st century education. If you
don't have easy access to a computer, you don't have equal access to a college
education. Equal access to the USM campuses is not just an admissions issue; it
also means an equal opportunity to learn. The Digital Divide
Initiative is another advance in Maryland's effort to make sure that college is
not just accessible but affordable to every Maryland student, and it's one more
way we can make sure our students are ready to meet the challenges of the 21st