When the U.S. Department of Education announced the annual grant winners for the TRIO Upward Bound program last month in Washington, D.C., the impact was felt by hundreds of students and their families in Montana. And it wasn’t good news.
Upward Bound has helped more than one million students from low-income families, where neither parent graduated from college, prepare, enroll, and earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degrees from institutions of higher education. Located on nearly 1,000 college campus sites across the country, Upward Bound programs provide much-needed after-school, weekend and summer college preparation and instruction to these students.
But due to a lack of adequate support from the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress this year, nearly 5,000 students and families across the country will lose the guidance and support services they need to achieve the college dream. Without Congressional support, the cut of $44 million, compared to last year’s budget, will force a number of Upward Bound programs to shut their doors and immediately terminate life-changing educational services to thousands of students and families.
As a result of these cuts, Montana lost four out of its nine Upward Bound programs, a loss of services to 245 students in 20 high schools, 28% of whom are Native American. Both Montana high schools and colleges will feel the direct loss of $5 million federal dollar investment in college post-secondary preparation services to the Montana secondary school students. It is estimated that the lost tuition and fees that are generated as a return on investment of the Upward Bound services, is as high as $10.9 M for Montana colleges. This cut will fall hardest on some of the most vulnerable populations in our state, including tribal communities such as Lame Deer, Northern Cheyenne Tribal School and St. Labre in Ashland on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Rurally isolated communities were hit very hard as well, with services being lost in the following towns; Twin Bridges, Harrison, Sheridan, Whitehall, Ennis, Alberton, Plains, Thompson Falls, Superior, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and Big Fork.
This decision to limit funding was clearly not based on Upward Bound’s effectiveness as a program. In fact, the Education Department’s own data have shown that:
• More than three quarters of all students who participated in Upward Bound programs went to college in the fall immediately following high school graduation
• This figure rose to more than 90% for students who participated for three years or longer in the program or remained involved through high school graduation
• Upward Bound students were 50% more likely to attain a bachelor’s degree than their counterparts.
As Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations, Rep. Denny Rehberg is in an excellent position to reverse these devastating cuts. If you support the program, you can reach out to Representative Rehberg at http://rehberg.house.gov/index.html and tell him you hope he will continue his strong support for the program this year by helping reverse the Department’s decision and restore this much-needed funding. Upward Bound represents only a drop in the bucket in the overall federal budget. But it can be life-changing experience for many hard-working underserved students in Montana and around the country who dream of becoming the first in their family to earn a college degree.
Amy L. Verlanic, Executive Director
Institute for Educational Opportunities