Upward Bound leaders concerned about budget cuts

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Upward Bound summer program participant Zachary Martinez studies at Eastern New Mexico University Monday. This is the last week of the program for high school freshmen through juniors, while seniors who have graduated are to continue for one more week.

Argen Duncan

Leaders of the Upward Bound program, which aims to help high school students get to college, fear they’ll have to stop work for at least a year due to federal budget cuts.

Upward Bound, part of the federal TRiO program, gets all of its money from the U.S. government.

Upward Bound operates at Eastern New Mexico University, and can serve up to 68 high school students a year, said Director Rodrick Chambers. Students must have low incomes and be the first in their families to go to college.

The ENMU Upward Bound program’s current four-year grant ends Aug. 31. With national leaders struggling with the budget, Chambers said one in four Upward Bound programs could be cut.

ENMU’s two other TRiO programs, Talent Search and the College Success Program, have been told they will continue to receive federal money, Chambers said, but they could still receive fatal cuts.

Upward Bound programs around the country already experienced budget decreases earlier this year, he said. Chambers expects to learn Aug. 2 if the program will receive more money.

“Until then, we’re just pending,” Chambers said.

Congress has the option to pass a continuing resolution to keep Upward Bound operating for another year. However, Chambers said there’s no guarantee that will happen, and even if it did, the program would in jeopardy again in 2012.

If ENMU’s program loses its usual funding, Upward Bound Coordinator Juan Rivas said, leaders will have to apply for a different grant, this one competitive. If they win it, getting the money could take another year, he said.

During the academic year, Upward Bound participants receive tutoring, ACT test preparation, college tours and community service opportunities. With the summer program, they live on campus, take classes and go on a trip to places such as Los Angeles and New York City.

ENMU’s Upward Bound program has been open to students in Portales, Clovis, Dora, Elida, Floyd, Texico and Melrose. However, Chambers said only Portales and Clovis would qualify for the services in the coming grant cycle, because the other schools’ higher graduation rates don’t meet the criteria that determines need.

“That is the reality of our next grant, that we’ll have to cut out five of the seven schools we serve,” he said.

Chambers is encouraging parents to ask their Congressional representatives to change the criteria.

Upward Bound participant Jessica Bryan, 16, of Clovis said through the program, she’d learned what she needed to do to get into college, and her math, science and English work had improved.

“It gives you hope,” she said.

Zachary Martinez, 17, also of Clovis, said he participated in Upward Bound because he thought it was a good opportunity to help him get to college. Not only has it provided information, but he said the program taught him that he can go to college, no matter his background, if he puts his mind to it.