State Library Grant Helps PCC Narrow ‘Digital Divide’

Clifton W. Everett Building through the pine trees at sunrise.

WINTERVILLE—The State Library of North Carolina (SLNC) awarded Pitt Community College a $10,000-mini grant this month to help the college address the technology needs of students having to take courses online this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding, says PCC Grants Management Director Julie Crippen, was used to purchase laptops Pitt is loaning to students who need them to access courses and complete assignments. Nearly all of the classes PCC is offering this semester are being taught remotely in the interest of student and employee safety.

“Individuals throughout PCC’s service area are nearly three times as likely as others throughout the nation and state to be without a computer in their household,” Crippen said. “A survey that the college conducted in May shows the same holds true for PCC’s student body.”

Crippen said the college surveyed students who met eligibility requirements for receiving federal student aid. Nearly half of the 2,050 who responded stated that they did not have access to technology needed for completing courses online.

PCC Library Director Leigh Russell says the laptops purchased through the SLNC grant will supplement the 135 laptops and hotspots Pitt is already loaning out to students in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“When PCC transitioned to online learning in mid-March, many of our students found themselves struggling to get the equipment they needed to complete their courses,” Russell said. “The need for laptops was overwhelming, so the additional laptops the SLNC grant allows us to purchase will have an immediate and positive impact on our ability to support student need for access to technology.”

SLNC, a division of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, has provided more than $260,000 in mini-grants to libraries across North Carolina to help them prepare for reopening to the public and adapting services to reduce the impact of COVID-19.