With an older brother in prison and a father he hardly knew, the most Ronnie Rice had hoped for was a spot in the military or a job at one of the factories in his hometown of Mobile, Ala. For this borderline high-school student, college wasn't really a consideration.
"If it weren't for Upward Bound, I'd be working at the air-conditioning plant," says Rice, who participated in Upward Bound's Math/Science program while in high school. Now a sophomore psychology major at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Rice is among a coalition of alumni fighting to save federally funded college and career preparatory programs like the one that showed him the importance of an education.
President George W. Bush's proposed 2006 budget calls for the elimination of 48 education programs, including Upward Bound and Talent Search, two programs that for nearly 40 years have helped low-income students prepare for college. Also slated for elimination are GEAR UP, an early college awareness program that usually begins in middle school, and the Carl D. Perkins Act, a $1.3 billion federal program for career and technical education.
The Bush administration questions the programs' effectiveness in steering student-participants to college. Officials also say the cuts will help eliminate duplication of services.
Created by the Higher Education Act of 1965, Upward Bound, Talent Search and four other programs were created to give disadvantaged students necessary tutoring in high school and access to higher education. Over the years, the programs have faced down the budget-cutting ax.
"This isn't the first time we've had to fight back attempts to cut these programs," says U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa. Fattah says he's successfully mobilizing bipartisan support to fight the cuts and notes that the latest assault upon the programs is likely to fail.
Adding that he anticipates Bush will come after the programs again, Fattah rebuffs assertions that the programs may be duplicative and wasteful. "Those statements simply don't deal with the facts," said Fattah, explaining that Upward Bound provides intensive assistance to select high-school students, while GEAR UP--a program which he helped create--works with larger groups of students at the middle-school level.
"These programs, both Upward Bound and GEAR UP, as well as the others, provide important access for our young people to go to college. Many congressional leaders, Republicans and Democrats, know this," Fattah says.
But while Fattah says he is optimistic about beating back attempts to do away with the educational programs, other supporters said this time is different.
"There is something insidiously different this time," says Dr. Arnold Mitchem, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education, which is organizing national opposition to the cuts. …