Program helping students enter college could get nixed

Some Hillsborough County high school students may find their opportunity to attend college will get a lot harder come 2012.

USF’s Upward Bound program, which helps low-income or first-generation students maintain a college track throughout high school, is facing federal budget issues that could put an end to it in 2012.

Upward Bound is a TRIO program federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). According to its Web site, TRIO programs represent and lobby for low-income, disabled or first-generation students nationwide.

USF Upward Bound program director Sharman McRae will represent the program at a policy seminar in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. She will also meet with Upward Bound representatives from the Tampa Bay area on Wednesday to discuss the future of the program, which could face branch closures because of a projected $52 million loss for the DOE, she said.

“We’re hoping that Upward Bound programs closer to Washington will get parents and alumni supporters to lobby the funds,” McRae said. She estimated about 178 of the 956 Upward Bound branches could be closed.

McRae said she is constructing the program’s budget, which is historically
$692,000 annually. She said she believes that number needs to increase because of housing, meal, book and trip expenses.

The program hires administrative staff, instructors, books, supplies, trips, summer boarding and meals, McRae said.

If the lobbying efforts fail, McRae said programs will be cut based on their success rates.

For Upward Bound branches to receive the grant that funds the program, 85 percent of students enrolled each year must graduate high school and attend college.

“We usually hit 90 percent,” said Raymond Cabrera, an Upward Bound academic adviser.

Last year, USF’s Upward Bound program had a 96 percent success rate, he said.

Upward Bound was introduced to the University in 1965 and has helped more than 2,000 students graduate high school and enroll in college, according to its Web site. There are currently 130 students – chosen from 10 Hillsborough County high schools – enrolled in the program.

Students accepted to the program must have a high school GPA of 2.5, submit an essay and prove that parental taxable income for the preceding year did not exceed 150 percent of the poverty level amount. First-generation students must also prove that neither parent received a degree.

If accepted, students attend 25 Saturday tutoring sessions during the school year, as well as a six-week summer program where they reside in the Cypress residence halls and attend classes taught by local high school teachers, McRae said.

Upward Bound also provides students with year-round academic advisers in the college and scholarship application process.

Simone Pratt Reddick, an Upward Bound academic adviser and alumna, spoke highly of the program.

“It was my ticket to college,” she said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done (without it).”

McRae said the USF Upward Bound program would know by December if it has the funds to continue in 2012.