AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo College has teamed up with T-Mobile to provide free cell phones to students that can also be used as hot spots for internet access.

Emily Gilbert, the director of libraries at AC, said they have 400 Samsung a32 cell phones in total and a little less than 100 still available for students to check out through the library at no cost.

“In order to check out a device, the students will need to be currently enrolled in academic classes at AC, and they need to have a library account,” said Gilbert. “In order to get a library account, the students can bring their student ID or another picture ID up to the library. We can create an account for them and then get a device checked out to them.”

AC officials said at this point, the program is mainly funded by money allocated from the CARES Act, and some funds from Perkins Grant money.

As previously reported, AC made half of the phones available to students in the most need, and the other half available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We hope that by the end of this semester, all 400 devices will be checked out and used by our students,” Gilbert said.

She said the goal of the program is to help students succeed.

“A lot of what we do requires our students to have internet access and if you don’t have internet access, it can really make not only school, but life difficult,” she continued. “It enables our students to be able to work on their homework, to be able to connect with their instructors, to be able to connect with the world when they’re at home, rather than having to come up to campus to do each of those things.”

Gilbert noted AC has identified that internet access can be a problem for many of their students.

“We want to be able to provide that to our students, again, so that they can have the ability to complete their educational journey successfully, and so that they can have access to the world at large as it is increasingly involved on the internet and in communication.”

Officials at AC said they piloted the program in the Spring semester, with a soft rollout of a limited number of phones.

As previously reported, AC officials have said the program is cost-effective because they do not have to keep the computer lab open 24 hours a day. They said faculty can focus on teaching instead of accommodating students facing internet connectivity issues.

Fall 2022 is the first semester that allows students to check out devices on a first-come, first-served opportunity.

According to Gilbert, AC hopes to expand the program in the future.