A program that has success in sending local low-income, first generation students to college is in jeopardy

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AROOSTOOK COUNTY, ME (WAGM) - A program that has a strong and long record of success in sending local low-income, first generation students to college is in jeopardy. A simple unintentional line-spacing error that appears on two info graphics within two grants could cause hundreds of students to lose the funding they need to attend college over the next five years. The grants fund the Upward Bound programs at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

According to UMPI President Ray Rice, "The grant applications went through with the info graphics at space and a half rather than double spaced but when it was read at the department which was through either an automated reading machine it automatically caught that it wasn't double spaced." The error was so insignificant that Upward Bound Program Directors could not immediately identify why the applications had not been accepted or even read. They had to seek additional guidance from Washington and were notified of the spacing.

President Rice says they realized they needed to act quickly. They reached out to Maine's Congressional Delegation about putting together an announcement and a request that the applications get put back in to the pool of the readers so they could be evaluated in terms of its actual content. The Secretary of the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos will have to be the one to make the ruling. "I am suspecting we will hear very soon because they have already started the process of evaluating the proposals so I am hopeful within the week within ten days we'll get a response and then we'll know where to go from there," Rice added.

One of the grants has been coming to the program since 1980 and the other for about 10 years. Together they currently fund 129 students. "If you go from 1980 it's been thousands of Aroostook County students," adds President Rice. Ninety-nice percent of those students end up attending County post secondary institutions. "This is an impact that we would feel here in the County with our kids attending our institutions and impacting their economic abilities," President Rice adds.

If the grant applications aren't accepted it will be five more years before they can apply again. It will become an even more difficult process because the program will have to start from the beginning. Losing all the history that the institutions have had.

The Upward Bound Programs are still accepting student applications and working with County students.

The program is encouraging all Upward Bound Alumni and community members to share their stories with Secretary DeVos in a letter, e-mail or phone call.

The address is:
Betsy DeVos
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202-8510

The grant applications numbers to refer to are #P047A170346 AND #P047A170352

Directors of the Upward Bound Program say, "In the meantime, we are busily planning our epic summer program “Education Matters” for all of our Upward Bound students, and are still accepting applications for the second annual Robotics Academy, a week-long commuter program designed to help with the transition from middle school to high school; our two week residential program for rising sophomores; and even a few openings available for rising juniors and seniors. Upward Bound is going strong because of the strength of our Upward Bound family, the support of our college campuses and our surrounding communities. We’ve been at UMPI for 37 years, and we’re not planning on going anywhere!"