Administrators fight for Metro program’s future
Metro’s TRiO Upward Bound program has been helping local high school students pursue higher education since 1974, but after a $49 million nationwide budget cut, its existence is now in jeopardy.
The federal program provides first generation students and students from low-income families educational resources that may not have otherwise been available. However, with funding disappearing and being devoted to other projects, the program is struggling to stay afloat.
Last year’s budget cut has already forced many TRiO programs nationwide to scale back their services or shut their doors entirely. This year, 1,500 institutions nationwide submitted grant proposals to the Department of Education and of those, only 780 were chosen to receive funding. While Metro’s branch of the program did not receive a federal grant, it will know how much money the program can expect for the upcoming school year sometime this month.
“Once funding is lost, students no longer have access to these services,” said Paulette McIntosh, Upward Bound alumni and program director of Metro’s branch. “The cuts have to come from some place, but they don’t have to come from the place where we look to our future to be – the young people.”
Metro’s TRiO program helps disadvantaged high school students complete high school and continue on to higher education by providing them with many services, including tutoring, personal counseling, community service, and individual student follow-up through college.
“It’s there to help you,” said Darius Ray, a senior at Denver North High School. “High schools and all your counselors, at a point where you’re not doing good, they’ll give up on you. Upward Bound is the opposite — they’ll give you the support you need all the way.”
Part of the competition for federal funding comes from the Race to the Top program, which was introduced by President Barack Obama as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Race to the Top is a contest in which grant money is awarded to states and school districts based on their attempts and ideas for education reform. Paula Osborne, the assistant director of the TRiO program, believes that programs like these don’t actually help students, but take money away from programs that do.
“All this money is coming into the states from Race to the Top, but all it is is a competition,” said Osborne. “There are no direct services involved.”
Rather than Race to the Top, Osborne hopes to see TRiO, a program which addresses equity, continue and succeed.
“We’re going back to a time when education was only for those that could afford it, especially if [they’re] wealthy,” she said.
Although McIntosh and Osborne are uncertain of what exactly is going to happen to Metro’s TRiO program, they will continue to fight for their student’s futures and provide them with the resources they need to graduate.