Upward Bound Programs At Wesleyan, UConn Fail To Win Funding
By SHAWN R. BEALS
June 13, 2012
MIDDLETOWN —— The U.S. Department of Educationdid not renew funding for the Upward Bound college preparatory programs at Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut, leaving administrators scrambling to find a way to save them.
Upward Bound helps students from low-income families prepare to attend college through weekly mentoring, tutoring and other services while the students are still in high school. Upward Bound is offered through Wesleyan for students in Middletown, Meriden, New Britain and Portland, and through UConn for students in Hartford, New Haven and Windham.
The program has been in place at both universities for 45 years. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education contributed $486,215 for Upward Bound at Wesleyan and $284,164 at UConn. The boards of education in districts in which the program is in place supplement the funding.
But neither program scored high enough in a competitive application process to receive funding for the next five years. In a news release, the Department of Education said the expiration of two federal programs meant it would have $49 million less in Upward Bound funding in 2012 than it did in 2011. Total federal funding for 2012 is $254 million.
Four programs – at Western Connecticut State University, Fairfield University, Sacred Heart University and in the Stamford public schools – received funding for 2012.
Sonia Mańjon, vice president of institutional partnerships and chief diversity officer at Wesleyan, said officials are working on maintaining funding for 2012-13 to allow next year's high school seniors to finish the program.
"Those students are the priority right now," Mańjon said. "We have brought them all this way and at this final hour they need this program to make sure their SATs and their college applications and essays are as all in good shape."
Federal education funding for Upward Bound is awarded in five-year cycles, with a competition for funding after each cycle, the education department said. Applications for federal funding are scored based on need, objectives, budget, community support, personnel and planning, and funding is given to the applicants with the highest scores.
Mańjon said 33 students in Wesleyan's Upward Bound program will be seniors next year, and said without funding the community will have to seek other ways to prepare students for college.
"Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country," Mańjon said. "What's at risk is that achievement gap getting larger and less of our students being competitive going into college."
Maria Martinez, assistant vice provost at the Institute for Student Success at UConn, said the lack of Upward Bound funding will have a big impact in the school districts UConn works with.
"Upward Bound is a critical program," Martinez said. "There's a lot of successes from the program and it's very well known. There's going to be less opportunity. We've been enduring quite a few budget cuts that in one way or another have had an impact on education in the last several years."
Martinez said UConn officials are also looking for additional funding and other ways to offer some of the program's resources to area students.
"We're still trying to figure out what the response is going to be," she said. "We're not going to let it go that easily."
Education officials in Middletown said they will continue to look for ways to continue Upward Bound in the city's schools.
"This is a travesty for Middletown," said Interim Superintendent David Larson. "This program cannot be allowed to go away. It's too valuable to the children of Middletown."
School board member Ed McKeon said Upward Bound has helped countless students in Middletown to be successful in college. He said some donations have been received already to help continue the program next year, but "the chances are slim the money is going to be recovered for this district or for Hartford."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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