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NCLB Outrages

Bush's Budget for 2006 May Propose Killing 2 Key Programs for College Access

Ohanian Comment: At the same time the President pushes a big corporate tax give-away, he finances NCLB expansion on the backs of needy students.

For the New York Time editorial, "Corporate Welfare Runs Amok," see:



President Bush may propose eliminating funds next year for two popular programs that help needy students prepare for college, in an effort to finance an expansion of his signature No Child Left Behind law to high-school students, higher-education advocates told The Chronicle last week.

The college-access programs, Upward Bound and Talent Search, have a combined budget of $460-million and serve a total of about 455,000 students and veterans. While Mr. Bush's proposal will not be certain until he releases his 2006 budget in early February, reports of the potential cuts have alarmed advocates of Upward Bound and Talent Search, which are part of the federal TRIO programs for disadvantaged students.

"These are popular, successful programs," Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said of Upward Bound and Talent Search. "We'd be deeply reluctant to trade them in for an untried replacement."

Supporters of the programs said the Bush administration had probably taken aim at them because the programs and the president's proposed high-school initiative serve a similar purpose -- to prepare students for postsecondary education.

"The administration will argue that it's reprogramming money that is already going to high school," said Arnold L. Mitchem, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education.

But the shift will also affect the more than 5,000 participants in Veterans Upward Bound, which serves veterans with low incomes or who are the first in their families to attend college. Currently, 45 institutions receive grants to provide veterans, from the Vietnam War to the war in Iraq, with classroom instruction, career counseling, and help with applications for college and for financial aid.

Diane Sandefur, who directs the Veterans Upward Bound program at the University of Pennsylvania, said slashing those services would be "devastating" for the veterans.

"These are individuals who are going overseas and putting their lives on the line for this country," said Ms. Sandefur. "They come back to the United States with a hope for a better life for themselves and their families, and Veterans Upward Bound made that happen."

An Education Department spokeswoman said the administration does not comment on budget requests until the spending plan is released.

Established in 1964 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's war on poverty, Upward Bound works with needy students in all four high-school grades whose parents lack bachelor's degrees, as well as with veterans. Talent Search, which offers a less intensive and less expensive college-preparatory program, was created a year later, followed by four more TRIO programs. In 1990, Upward Bound Math-Science was added to deal with declines in student performance in mathematics and science.

Over the past four decades, the TRIO programs have enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Two of their staunchest supporters in the U.S. House of Representatives are Republicans -- Rep. Henry Bonilla of Texas, a former Talent Search participant, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. And in 1995, it was a Republican senator, Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, who helped lead the charge to restore funds for the programs, which the House Budget Committee chairman was seeking to kill.

But in recent years, Upward Bound and Talent Search have come under fire from the Bush administration, which has questioned their effectiveness. For the past two years, the administration has proposed level funding for the TRIO programs, although Congress has ultimately bettered both proposals, appropriating $832.6-million for the 2004 fiscal year and $836-million for 2005.

The administration's skepticism stems in part from a study that found that Upward Bound had virtually no effect on the college-enrollment rates of its participants, although it did increase the educational aspirations of the 20 percent of participants who had not planned to attend college.

But Mr. Mitchem, of the Council for Opportunity in Education, said the study, which was updated most recently last April, relies on "pseudoscience." It constitutes little more than a "scientific smokescreen to cover up the president's political agenda," he said. "The president wants a new program, and he has to pay for it somehow."

(The full text of a report on the study, "The Impact of Regular Upward Bound: Results From the Third Follow-up Data Collection (2004)," is available on the Education Department's Web site.)

Upward Bound has also been hurt by a series of budgetary analyses that have deemed the program "ineffective." The analyses have given Talent Search a "results not demonstrated" rating, meaning that there are not enough available data to assess the program.

Advocates of Upward Bound, however, say the program's results speak for themselves. "This has benefited millions of underserved kids from the inner city, from the rural communities, who might not have had access to the American dream," said Brian L. Haynes, assistant vice president for student affairs at Florida International University and a former participant in Upward Bound. "You can't quantify that. You can't put a numerical value on it."

Mr. Haynes, who took part in a program at Ohio Wesleyan University in the early 1980s, said that without Upward Bound, he probably would not have gone on to receive a doctorate in higher-education administration.

From a budgetary point of view, the savings from eliminating Upward Bound and Talent Search would barely make a dent in the proposed expansion of No Child Left Behind, which is projected to cost $1.5-billion. Advocates for the TRIO programs say that the shortfall will leave other, similar programs vulnerable to the budget ax.

But Hector Garza, president of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, which lobbies on behalf of one such program, Gear Up, said he is not worried about that program's fate. He cited last year's $11-million increase for the program as evidence of Congressional support, and said Gear Up is "aligned with lots of the administration's proposals for No Child Left Behind."

"We hope and expect that it is going to be around for a long time," he said.

As for the two TRIO programs in jeopardy, Congress could still opt to restore their funds if the president calls for their elimination, although fiscal constraints could make that difficult. Still, advocates are vowing not to let the programs die silently.

"If we have to march on the Capitol, if we have to march on the White House, we will," said Doreatha S. Tyson, who oversees Talent Search and other access programs at Savannah State University, in Georgia. "National TRIO day is on February 26, and most times it's a celebration. This time, it must be a movement."

— Kelly Field
Chronicle of Higher Education


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