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University of Iowa News Release

March 15, 2006

Federal Cuts May End UI College Prep Program For Low Income Students

The University of Iowa will likely have to eliminate its Upward Bound program that offers college preparatory assistance to students from several eastern Iowa high schools if current federal budget recommendations are approved.

Each year, Upward Bound assists 99 high school students who are low income or are potential first-generation college students by preparing them with skills they will need to succeed in college and begin successful work careers, according to Phillip E. Jones, vice president and dean of students at the University of Iowa. Over the 40 years the program has operated at UI, Jones said it has given the opportunity to thousands of Iowa high school students that they likely would not have had otherwise.

However, the budget proposal sent by President George W. Bush to Congress would eliminate all federal funding for Upward Bound programs. Jones said he doubts the program would survive at UI if those funds are eliminated. The federal grant makes up about $490,000 of the program's $539,000 annual budget at UI.

"We would be hard pressed to provide complete funding to maintain the program, so if Congress agrees to eliminate the federal grant, it would probably mean eliminating the program entirely at the university," he said.

Jeanne Meyer, Upward Bound director at UI, said the program works with 99 high school students each year from Burlington, Fort Madison, Muscatine, West Liberty, Columbus Junction and all three Davenport public high schools. In order to participate, the students have to come from families that are low-income, or where neither parent has received a bachelor's degree, or both.

"The majority of our participants are from families where no one has gone to college before, so the idea of higher education is an unknown," said Meyer. "Upward Bound introduces them to college life and takes away some of the unknown."

Most students come into the program during their freshman or sophomore years in high school through a variety of avenues. Meyer said some are referred by teachers, counselors or administrators, others are recruited, and some apply to join the program on their own. Once accepted, students regularly meet with UI's Upward Bound coordinators, who travel to their high schools and provide information they need to succeed in high school and, later, college, such as study skills, technology skills and what courses they should take in high school that prepare them for college. The students also spend six weeks on the UI campus during the summers to take classes in language arts, math, science and foreign language.

Following their high school graduation, students have a one-year bridge year, where they take introductory college courses at UI. Meyer said that of those participants who stay in the program and go on to college, about half of each year's graduating class will typically choose to enroll full-time at UI.

Meyer said participants come from a diverse background: this year, 39 percent are white, 33 percent Hispanic, 24 percent African American, 2 percent Asian American and 2 percent American Indian.

Jones said that if Upward Bound is eliminated, it would take away a chance to go to college and begin a successful career for many students who need the opportunity.

"This is a significant loss of equality of opportunity for low income, first-generation college students," he said. "Upward Bound has made a difference in the lives of many, many young people and it would be a shame to lose it."

Derek Willard, special assistant to the president for governmental relations and associate vice president for research, said the University of Iowa will work to restore funding to save Upward Bound. Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa also operate their own Upward Bound programs, as do Central College and Graceland College.

"We will join with other higher education institutions and organizations to let Congress know how important these programs are," Willard said.

Upward Bound is funded through the federal TRIO program, which provides federal support to educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.