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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2005

Programs for low-income, at-risk students under fire

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Woodward High School senior Ashley Foster says the Upward Bound program was key in her decision to go to college. Woodward High School senior Ashley Foster says the Upward Bound program was key in her decision to go to college.
LISA DUTON / BLADE Enlarge

Ashley Foster could not have cared less about high school, much less college, during her first years at Woodward High in North Toledo.

She was an unmotivated student barely making passing grades - until she was entered in Lourdes College's Upward Bound program for high school students. The mentoring, programming, and encouragement she found among the instructors turned her life around.

So Miss Foster, now a 17-year-old senior who will attend Alabama A&M University on a music scholarship in the fall, said she was stunned when she learned that the Upward Bound program would be eliminated in President Bush's proposed budget.

"I never thought about college before Upward Bound," Miss Foster said. "Upward Bound kept me involved and motivated. It's all some of us have. I don't feel like this is right."

The Bush administration has its eyes on the $457.5 million spent on Upward Bound, Talent Search, and similar programs around the country so it can use the money for the expansion of the federal No Child Left Behind program in the nation's high schools.

Upward Bound and Talent Search are part of the federally funded TRIO programs, which target low-income and at-risk high school youths who would be potential first-generation college students. The programs help prepare these students to enter and be successful in a college atmosphere.

Officials at the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and Lourdes College in Sylvania are bracing for the possibility that these programs they host would be eliminated if President Bush's budget is approved as proposed.

College educators around the country have hailed Upward Bound and Talent Search as successful programs that have helped many low-income students.

Susan Trebach, spokesman for the Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington, said Upward Bound and Talent Search have been attacked because reports about the programs by the Office of Management and Budget have been misinterpreted by the Bush Administration.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, also in Washington, the Department of Education budget summary called targeted programs such as Upward Bound and Talent Search "unproven" and said they failed to demonstrate positive results.

"The irony you have here is expanding what is No Child Left Behind, which is more standardized testing, and replacing one-on-one contact and mentoring that we have in these programs," Ms. Trebach said. "For 40 years, these have been effective, successful programs that service a population."

Kim Grieve, Lourdes' TRIO programs director, said Miss Foster is just one example of the numerous positive stories from its program. She said students from Woodward and Waite High School in East Toledo who have been involved in the programs have passed all parts of the state proficiency tests for the past two years.

She said 16 of the 18 seniors they worked with from the schools went on to college this year.

"I cannot understand the rationale for cutting a program like this at all," Ms. Grieve said.

At the University of Toledo, students attending Upward Bound had a 100 percent graduation rate from high school over the past five years and 80 percent of those students went on to college, said David Young, director of the UT Upward Bound program for 9 1/2 years.

About 53 percent of the UT Upward Bound students earned four-year degrees. Mr. Young said the government doesn't track students earning two-year degrees, so the percentage of Upward Bound students leaving college with some type of degree is higher.

Some critics of Upward Bound and Talent Search cite studies that contend the programs fail to identify truly needy students and only tap pupils who likely would have attended college anyway.

"That is completely false," Mr. Young said. "I know the studies they are talking about and both of them have proven to be flawed."

Mr. Young said some students joined Upward Bound for the social aspect of it, perhaps because a friend was involved, or because they couldn't have the social aspect without the educational aspect. Once engaged, he said, "they got hooked."

"I think the best gauge is talking to the Upward Bound alumni," he said. "Many of them will tell you they had no plans of attending college until Upward Bound."

Just like Ashley Foster.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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