Sprint addresses 'Homework Gap' with free service for high schoolers

Modern Millennials
Sprint aims to help 1 million disadvantaged students.

It’s back-to-school season, but not all students have the tools they need to learn and grow. To address this, Sprint plans to support 180,000 low-income high school students with free wireless devices and connectivity.

About 70% of America’s high school teachers assign homework that requires online connectivity, yet low-income students often don’t have the broadband at home that they need to complete their schoolwork. It’s a problem known as the “Homework Gap” that affects more than 5 million families, according to the Pew Research Center.

As part of the 1Million Project, the Sprint Foundation is ponying up to supply service and equipment for up to four years while the kids finish high school. The first year of the five-year project kicks off this week, to encompass more than 1,300 schools across 30 states. The initiative should impact 180,000 students. Over the course of the program, the hope is to help up to 1 million high schoolers who lack internet access at home.

“Sprint is uniquely positioned to help make a difference in these kids’ lives immediately and on a massive level, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, in a statement. “In less than a year, we’ve gone from conceiving and piloting the 1Million Project to implementing it in order to help hundreds of thousands of high-school students across the country this school year.”

Each student participating in the 1Million Project will receive either a free smartphone, tablet or hotspot device and 3 GB of high-speed LTE data per month for up to four years while they are in a participating high school. Unlimited data is available at 2G speeds if usage exceeds 3 GB in a month. Those who receive a smartphone can use it as a hotspot.

“For today’s schoolchildren, smartphones are an essential tool for classroom performance, helping students with everything from communicating with teachers and counselors via email to conducting research for assignments and compiling reports and presentations,” said Richard Buery, deputy mayor for New York City. “As a city that lives on-the-go, the investment of 30,000 smartphone devices will be invaluable to students attending community schools and will help us achieve equity and excellence in the classroom by leveling the playing field on academic achievement. We thank Sprint for their partnership and for addressing the homework gap with the 1Million Project.”

Sprint piloted the program with 3,750 high school students in 10 markets in January 2017 through the end of the last school year. Lessons learned at the local level helped to prepare for the national rollout this fall, the company said. In a survey of students who participated in the pilot, 86% said the 1Million Project improved their attitude toward learning and school and helped them do their homework in a comfortable, convenient and safe place. Looking forward, 82% of students said the program positively affected the likelihood that they will persist and graduate from high school. And, crucially, 80% said it improved the likelihood that they will continue on to college.

“Not every student in our country has the equal opportunity to thrive and grow,” said Doug Michelman, president of the 1Million Project. “We are committed to doing our part to level the playing field for all those high school students in need who want to work hard to achieve their goals.”

Article updated Aug. 15 to correct the number of states participating in the program.