The University of Texas-Pan American has received a three-quarter of a million dollar Higher Education Technology Advancement Grant from the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board, a state agency in Austin.
The grant, for $753, 053, will allow UTPA to purchase equipment to enhance Internet access and to improve distance learning capabilities.
"The focus of the TIF grant is on increasing access to the learning environment at UTPA," said Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, director of the Center for Distance Learning and Teaching Excellence at UTPA. "Specifically, we're going to double our SLIP/PPP access, increasing our Internet access from off-campus; increase our bandwidth to the Internet for our campus; provide greater access to electronic resources in the library; and support the integration of technology into the classroom across the campus, including the development of on-line courses.
"One of the other things that we'll be doing is enhancing our ability to deliver instruction via interactive video," she said. "We've been delivering (courses by interactive video) for over 10 years, and we are upgrading our technology to allow us to stay on the cutting edge of delivery."
Lawrence-Fowler said the one-year grant goes into effect July 1.
"We've already started the bid process on large items, and we'll be able to start purchasing on July 1," she said. "Everything must be purchased within a year."
UTPA already has four on-line courses available - in engineering graphics, computer science, business communication and music appreciation.
"We're already assisting and partnering with other University of Texas System components to deliver Freshman On-Line and an electronic MBA and other degree programs," Lawrence-Fowler said.
With the TIF grant, the university will develop a minimum of 15 new courses over the next year with an emphasis on programs rather than a shotgun approach of courses across the curriculum.
"We'll be developing courses for the master's degree in computer science, for the doctoral program in educational leadership and some additional courses in business," she said.
The university is providing matching funds of $99,455 and an in-kind contribution of about $212,000 in equipment to accomplish the goals of the grant.
Since its creation by the 74th Legislature in 1995, the TIF Board has awarded approximately $202 million in telecommunications grants to school districts, charter schools, community colleges, public libraries and public and not-for-profit healthcare facilities. This year, 74 colleges and universities will receive more than $28 million in Higher Education Technology Advancement grants.