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WSU Loses Migrant Education Program

PULLMAN, Wash. – A Washington State University program that for more than four decades helped educate migrant workers and their children has lost its federal funding.

The program helped students to pass the GED tests, which certified they had high-school-level skills. It was the oldest program of its kind funded by the U.S. Office of Migrant Education and was the university’s first program for minorities.

Over the years, some 3,700 students enrolled in the High School Equivalency Program. Of those, 80 percent were Hispanic, mostly from central Washington, while 20 percent were Indians, WSU said.

When the grant was not renewed this summer, six faculty and staff members lost their jobs. The university will reapply for the grant in 2010 in hopes of continuing the program, said College of Education interim dean Phyllis Erdman.

“We hope that we can revive the program, making it even stronger and more closely aligned with our academic programs,” she said.

Erdman said HEP operated independently of the College of Education, although it provided education majors with experience in bilingual tutoring.

The grants are given for five-year cycles. HEP had requested $2.53 million to operate from 2009 to 2014, said program director Dennis Warner. Sixteen grants were awarded nationally, he said.

“We don’t know how many applied or how they scored,” Warner said, adding that he was optimistic about landing a grant next year. The Obama administration has requested more money for migrant education in 2010, while there were cuts in 2009, he said.

The WSU program cost $6,300 per student for each eight-week session. That cost is higher than others because it is the nation’s only fully residential program.

While the number of students who want a residential program has been dropping, Warner said that for many of the students it was their first exposure to higher education.

“It’s really exciting to see people begin to think of themselves as belonging on a college campus,” Warner said.

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