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Published: Saturday, 3/12/2005

Upward Bound is too valuable to eliminate

BY ROSE RUSSELL

HERE'S the central theme of Bush White House policies: Whatever program produces satisfactory results, ditch it.

Head Start has worked for four decades, but President Bush wants to shift funding for it to cash-strapped states.

If that happens, Head Start programs nationwide would close as quickly as dominoes fall. Then, low-income preschool children will have no opportunity to develop socialization or other school-readiness skills before kindergarten.

The Bush White House is also working to undermine quality of life at the other end of the spectrum in its campaign to privatize - destroy - Social Security. It's another decades-old program that needs attention, but not the type that "Chicken Little" George insists it needs to keep the Social Security sky from falling.

Now, wouldn't you know, the administration wants to eliminate another decades-old program: Upward Bound. Started in 1965 under the Higher Education Act, its purpose is to help prepare low-income students for college.

In Upward Bound, students whose parents are not college graduates and who probably give little if any consideration to higher education, are exposed to the avenue through which they can obtain an improved quality of life: college.

Upward Bound is a valuable program. It gives high school students experiences that high school counselors can only tell them about. Even students who go on a college tour don't have the wealth of opportunities that Upward Bound offers.

For several weeks during the summer months, Upward Bound students live on college campuses. They go to classes and eat cafeteria food - and, probably like every other college student in America, complain about it. Mentors tutor, and encourage the high school students, who also get personal instruction when applying to colleges and toward developing careers.

Woodward High School senior Ashley Foster told Blade staff writer Clyde Hughes that if it hadn't been for Upward Bound, she never would have thought about attending college.

But now, thanks to the program - and her own talents - she'll attend Alabama A&M University on a music scholarship. The young woman only needed to be shown that college was not only possible for her, but that she can excel in it and throughout her life.

Ashley's is only one such success story. There are millions more, thanks to 40 years of Upward Bound's influence on low-income and at-risk high school students from a spectrum of races.

Even so, Mr. Bush proposes to transfer the $475.5 million that funds it and similar programs to expand No Child Left Behind in high schools. Upward Bound's success is proven, but whatever success there might be from NCLB won't be known for years.

Of course students like Ashley lament Mr. Bush's budget proposal. College educators do too. In this region, the University of Toledo, Lourdes College, and Bowling Green State University don't want Upward Bound to become history.

At UT, each of its Upward Bound students in the last five years graduated from high school; 80 percent went to college, and 53 percent graduated from four-year institutions.

Had some of them not had Upward Bound experiences, where would they be? Certainly, many might very well have gone on to become successful.

Yet because Upward Bound was established to give low-income and at-risk students a better chance at life, you can't help but wonder, if it didn't exist, would more of those students be in minimum wage jobs? In the welfare system? Incarcerated?

Without Upward Bound, they might be on the public dole, and that seems to be what Mr. Bush is aiming for by wanting to dismantle, rather than strengthen, this program that works.



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