Metro’s TRiO Upward Bound program is stuck in financial limbo and may be in danger of closing their doors after 38 years on campus.
The federal program assists low-income and first generation college-bound high school students complete high school and enter a post-secondary education.
Due to budget cuts in the 2011-2012 school year, the Department of Education only gave TRiO an $8 million budget, forcing many other programs nationwide to scale back their services or shut down entirely. Of the 1,500 grant proposals submitted from TRiO programs across the nation, 700 survived the cut and will stand for the next five years. So far, close to 300 have been eliminated. Metro’s Upward Bound is currently in a “second-funding band.”
“The second-funding band does not entirely eliminate a program,” said Paulette McIntosh, director of Metro’s Upward Bound and Upward Bound alumni. “[We] may or may not be funded depending on how far the [remaining] funds go.”
Metro’s Upward Bound is scaling back on summer services and still has not heard from the DOE regarding additional funding. They hope for good news before the start of the fall semester, but if they receive nothing, they will be forced to close their doors August 31, said McIntosh.
Aaron Vasquez, a 17-year-old junior at Bruce Randolph High School, feels that there is no other place that compares to Upward Bound when it comes to preparing disadvantaged students for college and getting individual attention.
“It’s disappointing. A lot of people’s lives depend on it, there’s a lot of help through it. Just to hear that the government doesn’t want to give money to education, it’s just wrong. They’d rather spend the money on other things,” Vasquez said.
Both of Vasquez’s sisters are alumni of Upward Bound who have received degrees in business management. Vasquez recently traveled to Washington D.C. with other Upward Bound students from across the nation to urge their senators to fight for additional funding for the program. McIntosh also urges supporters of the program to call and write to their representatives.
After failing to attach an additional funding of $85.1 million for TRiO in the recently signed student loan bill, the Council for Opportunity in Education is now confronting the DOE for their preferential treatment of urban communities over rural communities when it comes to TRiO grant competitions.
In their letter to Secretary of Education Anne Duncan, the COE said, “We are troubled that the Department of Education’s imposition of a Competitive Preference Priority targeting ‘Persistently-Lowest Achieving School,’ which states generally identified in urban centers, seems to have disproportionally harmed and disadvantaged thousands of low-income, first generation high school students in rural communities.”
Metro’s TRiO Upward Bound program consists of three components: an academic year component, a summer module, and a bridge program for the college bound high school graduates. For now, McIntosh is trying to keep a positive attitude when thinking about the students if the program were to close down.
“We’re looking at different avenues, different resources, so that these students are not left out. And of course myself and others on my staff — they have our numbers, so we’re still a resource to them,” McIntosh said.