Upward Bound, the national program aimed toward motivating and preparing disadvantaged students for higher education, endured significant cutbacks in funding this year. Fortunately, the program affiliated with Case Western Reserve University survived budget cuts and received a little over $2 million, allowing it to continue operating for the next four years.
"This is our 41st year on campus. To continue is significant, because so many other programs lost their funding. There was stiff competition," said Debra Gardenhire, the program's director.
Nearly 97 currently funded institutions did not receive continued funding, and about 12 percent of currently funded Upward Bound programs were discontinued, according to the Council for Opportunity in Education. This marked the highest overall rate of discontinued programs in many years.
Upward Bound is part of the federal TRIO programs, sponsored by the federal government with a mission of providing educational opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Most TRIO programs are affiliated with a university or community center.
The program must reapply for funding every four years. "The Department of Education is very specific in what the grant should include," Gardenhire said. "They look for items such as population served, our target area and the schools, demographic information about the area, and the poverty rate. We have to prove high academic need, the difficulties the students are facing, and the dire need for the program." She added that Cleveland recently being named the poorest big city in America was just one of the reasons the program at Case needed to continue.
Upward Bound works with students in grades 9-12 from Cleveland's Collinwood, East Tech, East High, John F. Kennedy, John Marshall and Lincoln West high schools. More than 100 students are served during the academic year, and they spend six weeks on campus during the summer.
This year, the summer residential program begins on June 17 and runs through the end of July, and 82 students will reside on campus at Norton House. During the summer session, the students attend classes that will help prepare them for their upcoming academic year, such as anatomy and physiology, physics, calculus, English, college composition and creative writing, several foreign languages, an introduction to computers, and college planning.
Like traditional college students, the Upward Bound participants also find time to unwind: They go swimming at Veale Center, play basketball, check out poetry slams and entertainment at The Spot and attend local sporting events.
It's important for the students to stay on campus and get the full college experience, Gardenhire explained. "We work with low income, first-generation students, and they need the connection to the university," she said. To foster those ties, she and her staff work closely with other university departments.
"In the summer and during the academic year, we have Case students work in the programs with us. We work with financial aid, admission, health services, and housing," Gardenhire said. She added that faculty are welcome to contact her regarding potential classes and curriculum, and her office would like to partner with even more groups on campus.
"We are part of the Case community, and we want this to be a community effort. If a department or office is interested in presenting information about a program or mentoring a student, please let us know."
The overall goal of Upward Bound and TRIO programs is to get students interested in and prepared for higher education. Gardenhire said that some of the students come into the program only thinking about a few local colleges as options: "Some of our students choose to enroll at the university, while others attend other institutions. We broaden their opportunities and ideas for college, and we're bridging that gap and letting them know there are people here who care about them."
As a result, approximately 95 percent of their students pursue higher education. "We provide them with the services and skills to get into college. When they show up on campus—any campus—they should be able to compete and stay."
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.