Grant boosts internet, IT careers at UAF rural campuses

A female college students wearing headphones takes notes while watching a video on at a computer. In the background, three other students work at computers.
Photo by Eric Engman
Student Melina Garcia takes notes while watching a video for the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program class at the UAF Chukchi Campus in Kotzebue, Alaska. A $2.9 million federal grant will improve internet access at UAF's rural campuses.

A $2.9 million federal grant will expand broadband internet access at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ rural campuses and support information technology careers for low-income Alaska Native and minority students.

The grant will pay for hardware, software and broadband capacity upgrades to increase internet download speeds at campuses and learning centers in five communities: Dillingham, Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue and Tok. The goal is to provide internet speeds of up to 25 megabits per second at each rural site, which will provide a better experience for students.

“The vast majority of our courses are delivered online, and we know that connectivity is a challenge in rural areas,” said Jennifer Adams, the rural, community and Native education development director in UAF’s College of Rural and Community Development. She added that many students don’t have access to internet at home. When they do, it can be unreliable and prohibitively expensive, as much as $2,000 per month. 

“This grant will allow our students to do things that many people in urban communities take for granted: turn on their cameras during online classes, access multimedia content and download large documents,” Adams said. 

The grant will also support the development of IT careers by funding several positions, including a program coordinator, a technical support staff member and four student interns. The students will fill IT positions at businesses in their communities, where they will receive six months of on-the-job training and be paid up to $12,000 from grant funds.

UAF is one of 93 institutions nationwide that received funding from the Connecting Minority Communities pilot program, a part of the Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative. The program provided $268 million to historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions.

ADDITIONAL CONTACT: Jennifer Adams, 907-341-9118,