After the UW System received $4 million Friday, all 26 campuses will use that funding to support health care education delivery with beefed-up broadband internet and telecommunications services.
UW System President Ray Cross said this telecommunication support will help students in rural areas fit classes into their lifestyle.
“Students can access this technology to pursue their college dreams from wherever is most convenient,” Cross said in a statement.
The UW System received the funding from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and will get it in increments over a three-year span. UW campuses will use the funding to support communication systems that deliver web-based classes particularly to rural areas.
USAC will provide funding to fill the gaps in internet services in the rural counties, which will help deliver web-based healthcare materials for underserved populations.
Meg Gaines, director of the Center for Patient Partnerships and distinguished clinical professor at UW-Madison, told The Daily Cardinal that the increased connection in rural areas will give students more opportunities to pursue degrees in the medical field.
“Students who live in highly rural areas can do parts of their degree at a distance,” Gaines said. “I think that as more and more education is going online anyways, it’s an opportunity to reconfigure how education is brought to a population that heretofore hasn’t really had effective access.”
There has been a larger push within the state to expand broadband and communications services in northern Wisconsin. In March, Microsoft announced an agreement to provide expanded broadband to over 80,000 people in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula by 2022.
Increased connectivity in the rural areas allows for health care resources in hubs like Madison and Milwaukee to work locally to potentially solve problems that have plagued rural areas in the state, Gaines said.
For example, an opioid addiction specialist in Madison could communicate in real-time with a primary care doctor in Rice Lake with the expansion of this technology.
“It has the potential to allow rural hospitals access to expertise and innovation in a much faster way and in real time,” Gaines said.