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Upward Bounds bound to budget

Recent USF graduate Marcus Glover, 23, knew at an early age that he wanted to leave Bartow. Although he had never traveled outside of Bartow, he knew that staying would not provide him with the opportunities to cultivate a successful career. Glover figured that going to college or joining the military would be his only tickets out of town.

“I knew I wanted to go to college,” Glover said. “I knew I wanted to leave this community. There was really nothing positive there for me. I needed a vessel to help to get me into college. Upward Bound was that ship.”

Project Upward Bound is a part of the 40-year-old federally funded TRIO program implemented to help low-income and disabled Americans enter college and graduate. TRIO is a group of three programs to help economically challenged students. Through TRIO, more than 1,200 colleges nationwide assist more than 800,000 students who have college potential but need additional academic preparation, advising and encouragement to succeed in high school and in college.

Through Upward Bound, students are exposed to college life, through trips to universities and SAT and ACT training. They receive tutoring and are enrolled in college prep courses while still in high school. The program is designed to help students like Glover whose parents have not attained a bachelor’s degree and have low income.

After graduating from USF in December, with a bachelor of arts in Communications, Glover is nostalgic of his time participating in Upward Bound.

“I loved the exposure it gave me outside my small town,” he said. “Before I was involved with Upward Bound, I didn’t leave my small town. When I got the chance to go on to college visits, I saw other black males doing great things and it gave me a chance to talk to them.”

Now, Upward Bound’s continuation is financially threatened by President George W. Bush’s proposed 2006 fiscal budget. The proposal reduces funds for TRIO programs in order to provide more funds for No Child Left Behind and Pell Grants. This leaves Glover worried and disappointed.

“I’m disturbed the president wants to implement a program that will not have the same success as Project Upward Bound has had,” Glover said. “If it is destroyed, it will stop a lot of minorities from getting to college.”

In Bush’s proposed 2006 budget, education funding is lowered from $71.5 billion to $68.8 billion. TRIO programs such as Upward Bound received reduced requests for funding. For 2004 and 2006, $279.7 billion was requested for Upward Bound programs.

In 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. The new act affirmed that there would be a bipartisan commitment to ensure that all students, regardless of backgrounds, have the opportunity to obtain a quality education and reach proficiency in core academic subjects. Bush’s goal for 2006 is to strengthen the impact of No Child Left Behind in high school initiative programs and by reforming the Pell Grant program to ensure financial help to lower-income high school students who pursue a post-secondary education.

Wayne Shaw, involved in the USF Upward Bound program first as a student and now as an Academic Coordinator, argues that Bush’s plan may not be as effective as it sounds.

“If you increase Pell Grants to help low-income students, you will not have the programs in place that help disadvantaged students get into college so they can receive extra $500 in Pell Grants,” Shaw said.

“The question is when you’re trying to fund NCLB, which child are you talking about, those who have or those who don’t have,” Shaw said. “Because if you cut TRIO programs, low income and disadvantaged students will be left behind.”

Like Shaw, Robert Davis, USF’s Upward Bound director, does not agree with Bush’s proposed plan, but said he is not worried about it being passed in Congress.

“I am confident that the full House and Senate are knowledgeable about the history and the success of the TRIO programs in assisting low-income, first generation students to gain enrollment and graduate from a post-secondary institution,” he said.

“A testimonial of the success of the program are the 2,000 students and more of Project Upward Bound at the University of South Florida that more than likely would not have gone to college and definitely not have graduated from a post-secondary institution without the assistance of Upward Bound.”

Davis is also a product of Upward Bound–through experience, he understood the intrinsic value of the program, he said. To Davis, the program was a “safety net,” filled with experienced professionals who assisted him in the planning, financial aid, enrollment and college survival skills necessary to finish college.

Davis is disappointed that people are not genuinely serious about bettering education.

“I’m particularly disappointed that we spend so much time and energy talking about educating our youth, but when the opportunity avails itself to prove our concern ‘equally’ about the educational advancement of our students, we only provide lip service to ‘standards’ and ‘accountability’ but don’t do enough to bring it about,” he said. “As with President Bush, we choose to promote our own economic and professional interest.”