Federal grant will keep UW-W program in place

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Monday, May 14, 2012
— Lyndon Johnson's goal of a Great Society is, for the most part, a footnote in high school history books.

A part of that social initiative, however, survives today as Upward Bound, a program administered by the U.S. Department of Education to help low-income high school students. UW-Whitewater received word last week that its program will continue thanks to a $283,000 federal grant.

"We were, of course, pleased to know that our program will continue," said Ramon Ortiz, director of pre-college programs at UW-Whitewater. Upward Bound is one of the school's pre-college programs.

Whitewater began participating in Upward Bound in the 1960s. The current version began in the 1990s.

UW-Whitewater's Upward Bound provides academic assistance to 68 high school students from five high schools with relatively low incomes, based on the number of students who receive free and reduced-cost lunches. The five schools are Hamilton and South Division in Milwaukee and Park, Horlick and Case in Racine.

Ortiz provided examples of the low-income status of the five participating schools.

The statewide percentage of students receiving free or subsidized lunches is 39 percent compared to a national average of 19 percent, Ortiz said.

"The average of the five schools in our program is 68 percent," he said.

Students from those schools lack another key indicator.

"The recommended (guidance) counselor-to-student ratio is one to 250 students. At South Division, it's one to 347, and at Hamilton one to 398."

"We have specific measures to ensure that we remain eligible for funding," Ortiz said. "Students must maintain a 2.75 grade-point average. We need to make sure we keep them in school. ...We provide more rigorous academic courses, and we provide a five-week summer program here on campus emphasizing math, science and academic writing."

The federal grants are not automatic.

"We need to re-apply every year, and not all schools that re-apply get renewed," Ortiz said. "Fifteen applicants in Wisconsin were not renewed this year."

UW-Whitewater was one of 11 programs, including Beloit College, that were funded in Wisconsin.

UW-Whitewater emphasizes preparing first-generation low-income students for college.

Ortiz said most students in Upward Bound would not graduate from high school much less be admitted to college without the program.

"We start with high school freshmen and work with them throughout high school and then into UW-Whitewater," Ortiz said. "There is a bridge component as well when students take college courses on our campus."

Success is measured in the number of students who graduate from high school, are admitted to college and graduate from college within six years.

"We see a college graduation rate of 50 to 60 percent for Upward Bound students," Ortiz said. "It's about 10 percent below the overall student body, but we look at that as a success. Most of these students were not expected to graduate from high school, much less from college."

Last updated: 8:35 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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