Bush expected to cut TRiO funding

by Cati Vanden Breul

When he was in ninth grade, Dan Jackson became one of thousands of students across the country to join a TRiO Program.

TRiO Programs are funded by the government to help middle school and high school students from low-income families prepare for college.

Jackson, the youngest in a family with 11 children, said he was sought to join the Talent Search program early in his high school career at Minneapolis North High School.

“Being the youngest, there were expectations for me to go on in education, but the resources were never there,” he said.

But as many as 450,000 high school students might lose the opportunity to participate in a TRiO Program next year.

In his 2006 budget request, President George W. Bush is expected to cut two TRiO Programs – Talent Search and Upward Bound.

The Bush administration would then use the $460 million saved by eliminating the programs toward the No Child Left Behind Act, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Jackson said he thinks the proposal is “ridiculous.” It is important not to let some students slip through the cracks, because they do not have the resources to make it to college on their own, he said.

“We can’t dismiss students, like myself, who do well in high school and are on a good track but need an extra push,” he said.

Jackson was assigned two advisers who helped him choose the right high school coursework, held small-group workshops for ACT preparation and took him on college visits.

The advisers also met with his parents and discussed financial-aid options.

“They developed a good relationship with not only me but my parents also,” he said.

With their help, Jackson went on to graduate from St. Olaf College and now works as an academic adviser for the college’s Educational Talent Search program, which serves approximately 200 students.

Bruce Schelske, director of the University’s TRiO Student Support Services program, said cutting the programs will hurt Minnesota high school students, especially those from low-income families.

“Low-income kids tend not to do as well,” Schelske said.

He said the No Child Left Behind Act is directed at the nation as a whole, instead of specifically at poor students.

“Why would you take money from students who all meet low-income criteria?” Schelske said.

But the government should be helping all students, not just low-income students, said Tony Richter, College Republicans chairman.

“What I think is endearing about the No Child Left Behind Act is that it aims to help all high school students,” Richter said.

He also said he does not think the Upward Bound and Talent Search programs have been effective.

The University’s Upward Bound program serves approximately 50 to 100 students per year in three Minneapolis high schools. In those schools, 73 percent of students are black and 71 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch, Schelske said.

Minneapolis ninth-graders in Upward Bound have a 90 percent high school graduation rate, compared with 52 percent of all ninth-graders in Minneapolis, Schelske said.

But Richter said a lot of students in Upward Bound might have graduated anyway.

Schelske said Upward Bound and Talent Search do what middle school and high school counselors should do.

In Minnesota, 806 students are assigned for each guidance counselor, which is the second-worst ratio in the nation, Schelske said.

“(Counselors) spend all their time dealing with students in crisis or conducting exams,” he said.

Students who participate in Upward Bound take enrichment courses that help them prepare for college. Those students are given the opportunity to stay in University residence halls and take part in summer school programs.

In an initial response to Bush’s proposal, Arnold Mitchem, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education, said funding a broad-based initiative to improve high schools at the expense of low-income students is counterproductive.

“Of course, we applaud the desire to improve high school education for all,” Mitchem said in a prepared statement.

But he said implementing national standards for high schools cannot replace one-on-one support and counseling for students.