As Rhode Island's Congressional delegation continues working to make college more affordable, prevent student loan rates from doubling, and protect Pell grants from looming budget cuts, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today joined with students, faculty, and Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo to announce over $622,000 in federal funding for Rhode Island College's (RIC) Upward Bound program.
The U.S. Department of Education, which administers the program, notified RIC that "it is anticipated that the grant will be for a total of five years," meaning the college could receive as much as $3.1 million through 2017, pending annual appropriations by Congress. However, last year House Republicans voted to cut $24.9 million for the federal TRIO program, which funds Upward Bound. They also voted to slash $166 billion to education over 10 years as part of a plan that would reduce Pell Grants.
The Upward Bound program helps low-income high school students with the potential to become first-generation college students develop the skills and motivation necessary to graduate from high school and enter and complete a post-secondary education. The program offers comprehensive services, including college preparation courses, tutoring, academic counseling and advising, and guidance in completing college admissions and financial aid applications.
"I am proud of the work Rhode Island College is doing and will continue fighting to ensure more deserving students have the opportunity to attend college and the resources to afford it," said Senator Reed. "Rhode Island College's Upward Bound Program has a proven track record of giving students the opportunity to complete high school and earn a college degree. It is extremely helpful to students who have the potential but lack resources or information about how to get into college."
"The Upward Bound program works to make sure Rhode Island students get a fair shot at pursuing higher education, and helps prepare them for success in the college classroom," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "I congratulate Rhode Island College on this well-deserved grant award, which will allow it to continue helping students in our state."
"Access to a quality education that prepares students for successful careers is a fundamental part of the American Dream, but for many youth today that opportunity is out of reach because of financial and other barriers," said Congressman Jim Langevin, who wrote to the Department in support of RIC's application. "Upward Bound gives these young men and women a fair chance to reach their full potential, and I am proud that my alma mater has developed a premier program to give them the well-rounded set of skills they need."
"Supporting our young people on the road to success requires expanding access to higher education, and ensuring our students are prepared to succeed in college and beyond," said Congressman David Cicilline. "RIC's Upward Bound program equips young men and women with the tools they need to compete in this economy and I know these federal resources will help support their efforts."
Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo said, "We are very proud that Rhode Island College is home to one of the most successful and longest standing Upward Bound programs in the United States. We appreciate the continuing federal support and pledge that the program will continue to lead promising youngsters to success in the classroom and in life."
Mariam Z. Boyajian, director RIC Upward, stated, "The new grant, funded by the United States Department of Education, will provide a bright future for hundreds of high school students who wish to pursue higher education yet need the skills to close the gap between potential and achievement. This funding will ensure that future generations of at-risk students have the opportunity to participate in an educational program that has been so successful at guiding and motivating our young people since 1966."
The Upward Bound program began at Rhode Island College in 1966, and was one of the first of its kind in the nation. The program has a strong, continuous 46-year history and a successful track record working with low-income, first-generation students from six area high schools: Central, Hope, and Mt. Pleasant High Schools in Providence, Central Falls High School, East Providence High School, and Shea High School in Pawtucket. In its most recent annual performance report, Rhode Island College noted that graduates of Upward Bound have a 100 percent high school graduation rate, a post-secondary enrollment rate of 98.6 percent, and a post-secondary retention/graduation rate of 76.5 percent.
Senate Republicans are currently filibustering Senator Reed's bill to freeze the interest rates on subsidized federal Stafford loans for one year. Congress has a July 1 deadline to act or rates will double from 3.4% to 6.8% on millions of Americans and over 43,000 Rhode Island students.