Department of Education and Obama Administration Continue to Complicate TRIO Competitions and Funding Levels

Posted by on Friday, March 9, 2012 19:37 - 0 Comments

In recent weeks, President Obama’s Administration has made several announcements regarding the Upward Bound and McNair programs that will negatively impact the current competitions.

When President Obama released his FY 2013 budget proposal to Congress, he proposed to level-fund the Federal TRIO Programs. Upon a closer review, however, of the line-by-line allocations for various TRIO programs, it became clear that this proposal disappointed in more ways than one. It seems that in anticipation of the pending loss of several Classic Upward Bound programs, the Department of Education opted to move $10 million from the McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement program to support the Upward Bound Math/Science program. A review of the draft application for the McNair program confirmed this change. In the application, the Department indicated that only $36.1 million is available for the FY 2012 competition—a $10 million reduction from the amount previously available for McNair. Further, the application indicated the intention to only fund 127 grant awards—a reduction of more than one-third of the current number of McNair grants. This shift in money can only be authorized by the Department of Education.

Given the dire needs of increased funding for all TRIO programs, the entire McNair community is urged to work diligently to convince legislators of the need to invest more into McNair specifically. By drawing upon program data about student success, the community can help turn the tide in favor of McNair and all of TRIO. COE will continue to work closely with the
entire McNair community—from program directors to faculty advisors to students and alumni—to ensure these funds are restored to the program.

At the Southeastern Association of Education Opportunity Personnel meeting in Jacksonville, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Debra Saunders-White, announced that the regular Upward Bound competition would be reopened for two weeks—only for those institutions and agencies that indicated that they were applying for competitive priority points under Competitive Priority One: Serving Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools in their original application. This extension is due to confusion regarding which schools qualify as persistently lowest achieving schools, as well as the fact that inaccurate information regarding this question was provided by the Department of Education. When the notice of the extension was posted on the Department of Education website, a list of qualifying Tier 1 and Tier 2 schools was included. Only schools on this list qualify as persistently lowest achieving schools. Serving Tier 3 schools does not qualify an institution or agency for this competitive priority. COE expects that these announcements will further delay the upcoming competitions for UB, UBMS, VUB, and McNair. COE is also deeply concerned that discrepancies in applications appear to be overrepresented in applications from California, Puerto Rico, and Texas— signaling that this overrepresentation could disservice institutions and agencies applying to serve significant percentages of Latino students.

Because the Department and the Obama Administration continue to ignore the importance of the timings of each competition, the TRIO community will be addressing this issue with Congress when we hit Capitol Hill during the 2012 Policy Seminar. It is COE’s hope that by working with a number of legislators, the Department will be forced to address this issue and report on the status of competitions to Congress to ensure timelines are met.

– Article originally posted Council for Opportunity in Education March 2012 edition of Equity.

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