Budget, Evaluations Pose Challenges for TRIO
Bush budget labels Upward Bound program as ‘ineffective’
National TRIO advocates came before a House of Representatives panel recently to seek more funding for 2003 and to clarify what it terms as misleading information about one of their core activities — the Upward Bound program.
In its fiscal 2003 budget request, the Bush administration recommended a funding freeze at $800 million for TRIO, which includes eight programs to promote early college awareness and postsecondary education success. But, in a potentially damaging long-term move, the Bush budget also labeled one major TRIO program — Upward Bound — as ineffective, a view that drew concern from advocates.
“This is certainly an oversimplification, if not a mislabeling,” says Clarence Smith, registrar at Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss., and former Upward Bound director at Rust, a four-year historically Black college.
According to Smith, the Bush administration based its findings of ineffectiveness on limited data from students randomly assigned to 67 Upward Bound programs nationwide. Fewer than 25 percent of these students had completed high school and were ready to enroll in college, he says. As a result, it is too early to draw definitive conclusions about the program’s effectiveness, he says.
Rust College’s Upward Bound program has strong effects on children, Smith says. All Upward Bound seniors graduate from high school and 86 percent enroll in a postsecondary program. By comparison, among all students at the target high schools for this program, only about two-thirds graduate from high school and enroll in college (see Black Issues, Dec. 6, 2001).
Instead of a funding freeze, Smith and the umbrella organization of TRIO programs, the Council for Opportunity in Education, are proposing a $200 million increase for the program, for total funding of $1 billion next year.
“Although TRIO programs have a demonstrated record of success, the current level of funding allows less than 7 percent of the eligible population to be served,” Smith says. “Current funding levels also seriously limit the ability of projects to strengthen the quality of program services.”
Nearly 9.6 million low-income students from middle school to college are currently eligible for the TRIO programs. To improve on the 7 percent service level, Smith recommended additional funding to reach 10 percent of eligible youth.
Within the $200 million, COE would recommend increases of:
• $50 million for 125 additional Upward Bound projects and 48 additional projects under the Ronald McNair program, another TRIO program;
• $66 million to expand the number of students in TRIO programs such as Talent Search and Student Support Services;
• $19 million to increase the quality and quantity of services in Talent Search and other projects;
• $15 million to provide funding for computer equipment, software and staff training to assist all TRIO projects in addressing the digital divide for their students;
• $15 million to provide recently authorized summer work-study stipends to almost 21,000 Upward Bound students; and
• $20 million to provide cost-of-living increases to all TRIO projects.
This year, TRIO programs serve nearly 823,000 students, two-thirds of whom come from families with incomes below 150 percent of the poverty level and families in which neither parent graduated from college.
On a related note, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., has introduced legislation to broaden access to TRIO programs among two-year colleges. He introduced the measure after learning the University of Wisconsin system, which includes 13 two-year colleges, can apply for only one TRIO grant based on the definition of “campus” and “independent campus” under federal law.
In proposing the TRIO Education Access Act, Feingold says “misguided regulations” are denying many colleges the chance to apply for TRIO funds.
For more information, contact Feingold’s office at (202) 224-5323.
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