Spokane community colleges aren’t used to this sort of generosity, but when the giver is Bill Gates, well, it computes.
The colleges announced Tuesday they are getting nearly $1.3 million in software and technical support from Microsoft Corp.
The largest donation ever to the Community Colleges of Spokane, it is part of a $10 million gift from Microsoft to community colleges statewide.
“Our students should be thrilled over this,” said Terry Brown, chief executive of the Spokane colleges.
“It really gives us a tremendous shot in the arm.”
Gates, chairman of Microsoft, announced the gift last weekend during a visit by President Clinton to Shoreline Community College in Seattle, where both leaders talked about the need for high-tech training in an information age.
The founder of the world’s largest software firm said Washington community college students now will become part of the personal computer revolution and the parallel growth of the worldwide Internet, making them more marketable to employers.
Included in the gift are software updates for Windows ‘95 and professional office packages of Word 7.0, Excell 7.0, Access 2.0 and PowerPoint 7.0.
The announcement comes after Spokane’s colleges recently spent $1.5 million for personal computers and network connections.
The Microsoft gift will be divvied up this way: Spokane Community College gets $729,600 in products and support; Spokane Falls Community College gets $425,600; and the Institute for Extended Learning, $122,800.
The amounts are based on the number of personal computers at each location.
The Spokane colleges as a group now have some 2,100 personal computers available to students and faculty. That large number of computers is the main reason Spokane got the largest portion of the statewide gift, Brown said.
While the size of the donation comes as a surprise to educators, the relationship between the community colleges and Microsoft dates back more than a decade.
Spokane’s colleges have field tested some of Microsoft’s products to make sure they were user-friendly before they went to market, Brown said, and the statewide community college office at one time occupied a computer center at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
Not only will regular students benefit, but the acquisition of software means the colleges can expand their customized training programs for businesses in the region. Companies wanting to upgrade their workers’ skills can do so with this software, Brown said.
Students will leave the colleges with computer skills that meet or exceed contemporary business standards, he said.
“This is going to put our graduates right up there.”
SFCC math instructor Nick Nickoloff said it may take time to learn - and benefit from - all the potential classroom uses for the software.
“But I think it will help us all,” he said.