New Plan, Named for UNCF Chief, Seeks Retention Funds
WASHINGTON — As a former congressman and current director of The College Fund, William H. Gray III has a lot of visibility. Now he may get legislation named after him as well, if Congressional Black Caucus members get their wish.
For the William H. Gray III College Completion Challenge Grant, Congress would provide three-year grants to individual colleges or consortia to promote student retention, with a particular focus on raising retention rates among low-income students.
Programs could consist of an intensive summer program for incoming first-year students that would supplement existing retention services, says the legislation from Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., a member of the caucus. Funds also could support other activities in a student’s first two years, such as peer tutoring and mentoring programs with help from faculty and upperclass students.
For Fattah, who represents Gray’s former congressional district, the bill is an extension of the new GEAR UP program, which promotes college awareness among at-risk middle school and high school students.
“GEAR UP is a great success because it gets low-income youths on the right track to college. What this college retention bill does is ensure that students who start the race towards their degree wind up finishing,” says Fattah, who helped develop the legislation that resulted in GEAR UP’s creation.
The bill’s primary focus is on colleges that offer baccalaureate degrees, since students from low-income families are much more likely to leave a four-year college without a degree compared with those from high-income families, the legislation states.
However, grantees could include consortia of four- and two-year colleges, with four-year institutions as the lead agency. Services could help students in two-year institutions gain admission and financial aid at a four-year college or university, based on the legislation proposed by Fattah and two dozen other federal lawmakers.
In most cases, grantees must focus on freshmen and sophomores, but may serve juniors and seniors if they also are at risk of dropping out — as long as the grantee first meets the needs of new students.
Projects also may provide information about admission and financial aid to help students enroll in graduate and professional programs.
Overall, Fattah’s bill recommends $35 million in fiscal 2000 and such sums as necessary for the following four years. The legislation was referred to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. William Goodling, R-Pa.
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