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March 31, 2005

Upward Bound faces federal budget ax

Lobbying efforts are underway at Pitt to save the community outreach program Upward Bound, which is targeted for elimination in President George Bush’s 2005 budget.

Also on the chopping block is another federally funded community program at the University, the National Youth Sports Program. (See March 17 University Times.)

Advocacy efforts such as letter writing to members of Congress are underway for both programs, according to Eugenia Stoner, director of federal government relations at Pitt. She also is exploring joint lobbying campaigns with other Pennsylvania universities.

The University’s Upward Bound program was slated to receive $944,650 from the Department of Education for programming from June 1, 2003, through May 31, 2005. Pitt doesn’t contribute financially to the program, but provides in-kind support such as office space and furniture, among other things, according to John Fedele, assistant director of news in Pitt’s Office of Public Affairs.

At Pitt since 1968 and part of the University Challenge for Excellence Programs in the School of Arts and Sciences (A&S), Upward Bound provides comprehensive instruction, tutoring and counseling to low-income and first-generation, pre-college students. Currently the program serves about 112 students in Pittsburgh-area public and parochial schools. There are 763 Upward Bound programs nationally and 38 Upward Bound projects statewide with 14,419 students, according to Gail Austin, associate director of the University’s Academic Resource Center, speaking for the A&S dean’s office.

Although numerous after-school programs exist, Upward Bound provides unique learning opportunities, according to Austin. “This is a comprehensive program that [also] provides an on-campus, six-week residential summer program with instruction, tutoring, counseling, cultural enrichment, guidance and post-secondary orientation experiences that stimulate interest in a four-year, post-secondary education,” she said.

Records show 95-100 percent of Upward Bound participants graduating from high school receive more than two college acceptance letters and complete financial aid packages, according to Austin.

“This performance record has at various times over the last 30-plus years exceeded the performance of other local high school students,” she said. “In addition, approximately 80 percent of those students (excluding alumni from 2001-2004 high school graduating groups) have completed a postsecondary education.”

—Mary Ann Thomas

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