Nearly 3 million students across the United States struggle to complete schoolwork due to a lack of technological resources at home, according to a recent Associated Press report. The report explains that approximately 17% of all schoolchildren in the United States do not have home computers and 18% do not have Internet access at home. The report indicates that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data shows that cost is the primary factor that prevents more people from possessing Internet access at home. The report also cites NCES data that shows these challenges impact learning, with students who do not have access to the Internet at home scoring lower on reading, science, and mathematics tests than those who do.
A lack of Internet access among students in need impacts learning in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, which require proficiency in high-tech applications. In addition, it impacts the STEM pipeline. If a lack of technology prevents students from fully participating in STEM courses, then they will be less likely to pursue STEM degrees or careers.
Many organizations are working to close this technology gap, which is known as the homework gap, by providing access to technology in areas that are underserved. According to the report, a number of grant programs, school districts, public libraries, and local businesses have made an effort to provide free Internet access after school hours. One national nonprofit group, PCs for People, focuses on providing both devices and Internet access to those in need.
About PCs for People
PCs for People recycles electronics to provide people in need and nonprofit organizations with computers and Internet access. The group explains that through agreements with businesses, usable computers are intercepted from landfills, reducing the environmental impact and allowing the technology to be refurbished. PCs for People offers this service free to participating businesses.
According to the group’s statistics, since its inception in 1998, PCs for People has recycled more than 3.5 million pounds of electronics. The group claims that over 80,000 computers have been distributed through its programs and that more than 30,000 families have been connected to the Internet. Additionally, PCs for People explains that it employs people with both intellectual and physical disabilities who are trained to recycle, and in this way, one more social benefit is realized through its efforts.
In order for individuals to be eligible to receive technology from PCs for People, they must be able to provide photo identification and fulfill one of two other eligibility requirements. They are eligible if they earn below 200% of the federal poverty level. According to PCs for People, this means that a family of two must earn no more than $33,820, while a family of eight must earn no more than $86,860, with income levels ranging in between for intermediate-sized families. Proof of income in the form of a tax return, a Social Security statement of benefits, a retirement or pension statement of benefits, or similar documentation is required.
Another way for people to qualify is to participate in an income-based government assistance program. PCs for People indicates that it requires proof of participation that includes the date and participant’s name. Some common programs that qualify are Supplemental Security Income, The National School Lunch Program’s Free or Reduced Lunch Program, Section 8 Federal Housing Assistance, Social Security Disability, and Head Start, among others.
Qualifications for Organizations
Organizations are also eligible to participate in PCs for People’s programs. Several categories of organizations are eligible, with each one carrying its own requirements. The eligible categories are nonprofit or non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, administrative offices of an educational institution, and public museums.
Nonprofit and non-governmental organizations must have charitable status. Eligible educational institutions must be accredited academic institutions, vocational institutions, or educational preschools serving at least 10 students and having operated for at least one year. The administrative offices of an educational institution are eligible if they operate at the district, regional, state, provincial, or national level; are organized and operated solely to function administratively; or are government entities involved mainly in the administrative operations of an educational institution. Public museums are eligible if they have an educational or aesthetic purpose and have a staff that ensures the curation and display of objects for the public.
PCs for People has Internet modems, desktop computers, laptop computers, and accessories available both online and at its physical sites. Physical sites in Minnesota include locations in Brainerd, Grand Rapids, Mankato, and St. Paul, while offices are also situated in Denver and Cleveland. Technology can also be acquired through its website, PCs for People Online. A range of products are available both online and at the physical sites, with specifications varying depending on the amount of the donation that beneficiaries are able to pay.