Colorado Lieutenant Governor and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education Joe Garcia, President of the Colorado Community College System Nancy McCallin, Ph.D., and community leaders joined Comcast Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David L. Cohen at the Community College of Denver today to announce a new pilot program to extend Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program for low-income families, to low-income community college students across Colorado.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, community colleges enroll as many as 40 percent of all college students each year. As low-cost, open-access institutions, community colleges serve a high percentage of non-traditional students, including those who are low-income, are financially independent, have dependents, are first generation, and are older.
"For millions of Americans, community college is one of the most accessible paths to a post-secondary education and a brighter future," said Cohen. "By offering an affordable Internet connection and computer, Internet Essentials will enable low-income community college students to access educational resources not just at school but also at home. In addition, Internet Essentials will link these students to crucial digital literacy training programs that will help them as they complete their studies and continue to have a positive impact after graduation. Students need support at every level of their education, and extending Internet Essentials to community college students highlights our commitment to providing them the support they need, whether in elementary, middle, or high school or pursuing post-secondary education."
According to research, an associate degree increases the chance of being employed by 12 to 15 percent for men and 20 percent for women. In addition, according to the Community College Resource Center, an associate degree increases average earnings compared to a high school diploma by 13 percent for men and 21 percent for women. In 2012, the American Association of Community Colleges estimated community college graduates added $809 billion in income to the U.S. economy in higher wages, increased productivity, and multiplier effects. According to the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), education increases lifetime income. For instance, the average income at the career midpoint of someone with an associate’s degree in Colorado is $49,900, which is 35 percent more than a student with a high school diploma. CCCS also reports that for every $1 a student invests in a Colorado Community College, they receive $3.10 more in lifetime earnings.
"Higher education is key to a better life – not just higher salaries and better job prospects, but more engaged citizens who will improve our communities," said Joe Garcia, Colorado’s Lt. Governor and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. "I applaud Comcast for partnering with Colorado to offer one of the first low-cost Internet access programs for community college students. Because the modern workforce is driven by technology, Internet access is no longer a luxury but an essential. This initiative is one more way we can provide Coloradoans the support, resources and tools that are necessary to compete and lead in today's economy."
Since its inception in 2011, Internet Essentials has been available to eligible Pre-K-12 students and their families. In Colorado, nearly 24,000 households have been connected to the Internet, benefitting nearly 100,000 residents. Nationally, Internet Essentials has connected more than 500,000 households, giving 2 million low-income Americans access to the power of the Internet in their homes. Colorado has the highest Internet Essentials participation rate in the country. Nearly 30 percent of all eligible families have signed up, which is 10 percentage points higher than the national average.
The Colorado community college pilot will expand on the work Comcast and its many community partners have completed in Colorado to enroll eligible families in the program. In the last four years, Comcast has partnered with hundreds of school districts and community partners including Denver Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs, City Year, the Denver Indian Center, Girls Inc., Mi Casa Resource Center, and others, in an effort to spread the word to families with school-aged children that could benefit from the program.
"The Internet and computer literacy are critical to assuring success in the classroom and in the 21st Century economy. The Internet is integral in how the Colorado Community College System delivers coursework and supports and communicates with students," said CCCS President Nancy McCallin, Ph.D. "Having technology and Internet service at home removes barriers to online learning, giving students greater access to information, the colleges, the faculty, and a host of additional resources that are crucial for their success. We are thankful to Comcast for providing this opportunity to our community college students."
Comcast also announced a similar community college pilot in the state of Illinois today. Low-income community college students in Colorado and Illinois must be recipients of Federal Pell Grants, the nation’s largest need-based grant program, in order to qualify for Internet Essentials. According to the most recent data on community colleges from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly 40 percent of students attending two-year community colleges receive Federal Pell Grants.
Last month, Comcast doubled Internet Essentials’ download speeds to up to 10 Mbps, which is the third time in four years the speed of Internet Essentials service has been increased at no additional charge to customers. Comcast also announced that it is offering program participants free Wi-Fi routers that will allow them to connect any Internet-enabled device, such as a tablet, laptop or smartphone, to their home service.