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Continuing and Innovative Education, The University of Texas at Austin

FCC Press Conference

On Monday, September 21, 2009, Continuing and Innovative Education (CIE) hosted a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) press conference on the importance of broadband Internet technology for distance learning. Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker of the FCC spoke at the event as part of a “first stop” on a nationwide tour by the FCC to promote broadband use in education. The focus of the event was on high school students preparing for graduation and higher education.


Dean Judy Ashcroft, Ph.D., of Continuing and Innovative Education (CIE) welcomed Commissioner Baker to the university and reviewed with her a sample of CIE programs and opportunities for high school students that specifically employ the Internet. The programs included The University of Texas at Austin Online High School, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program, and LUCHA.

“I’m so thrilled that UT Distance Learning is being showcased as part of our first National Broadband Plan meeting…UT’s Distance Learning program is the perfect example of the benefits that broadband Internet can bring to the American people,” commented Commissioner Baker. “Through distance learning programs like the ones here at UT, students in rural areas and anywhere in the country will be able to receive quality instruction providing them with the necessary skills to succeed, compete, and prosper in today’s global economy.”

The FCC will hold 11 field hearings across the nation to help develop a National Broadband Plan. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 directed the FCC to submit a plan to Congress by February 17, 2010 that addresses broadband technical/deployment issues and how broadband is used to advance solutions to national priorities such as education, health care, and energy.

The press conference, held at the university’s Thompson Conference Center (TCC), included Dean Ashcroft, Amy Pro, Ph.D., principal of The University of Texas at Austin Online High School, and three students who have benefited from using broadband Internet to further their high school studies with CIE.

One of the students, Sheila De La Rosa Alvarado of Donna, Texas, joined the conference via a broadband Internet video connection. Through the help of LUCHA, De La Rosa, a recent immigrant to the United States, enrolled in Donna High School as a freshman even though she had completed several years of high school in Mexico. As a result of the LUCHA services, she was awarded credit for her coursework in Mexico and was able to fulfill her science requirements online. De La Rosa stated that her goal is to become a teacher and to help students with language barriers earn their U.S. high school diplomas. 

Erick Sanchez, a student of the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program, took the opportunity to thank the university for offering the program. As a member of a migrant family, Sanchez became accustomed to infrequent formal schooling and limited access to the Internet. Through online opportunities provided to him by CIE and personal perseverance, Eric graduated from high school last year and is now enrolled at St. Edwards University in Austin.

Colleen Wells, a junior with the UT Online High School, stated that her online studies have enabled her to take a full-time job that will help her achieve her ultimate career goals. She also said that the online curriculum from UT Online High School is challenging and has forced her to become more conscious of time management.