It’s no secret that HBCUs have myriad struggles when it comes to finances in comparison to their predominantly white counterparts.
So, of course, it raises alarm when U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos decides to cut programs such as Upward Bound, part of the larger federal disadvantaged-student aid program, TRIO.
HBCUs that have benefited from Upward Bound and that are now concerned about its loss include Miles College, Tuskegee University, Clark Atlanta University, West Virginia State University and Savannah State University.
Concerned about the federal government draining already limited resources, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and 41 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have put out a call to DeVos to explain herself, thoroughly.
“We’re calling on Secretary DeVos to work with members of Congress to identify and address the issues that have led to such a devastating loss on our HBCU campuses,” Sewell said according to The Birmingham Times.
The U.S. Department of Education rejected federal grants for the Upward Bound program that would’ve aided low-income students at 77 schools.
Further angering the CBC is the fact that many of the funding rejections were due to errors like font or file format despite spelling and math challenged DeVos directing department staff “to allow flexibility on formatting and other technical elements on all grant applications. Bureaucratic red tape should never get in the way of helping students.”
In her statement, Sewell noted that she herself is a product of Upward Bound. “Upward Bound played an essential role in shaping my academic and professional success. Funding must continue in order to ensure that future generations have access to these resources. We hope that Secretary DeVos will respond to this letter affirming her commitment to Upward Bound students at our historically Black colleges. This administration should work to mitigate disparities not aggravate them.”
And she stressed that she is not some exception to the rule. “The Upward Bound program has been a critical asset to these HBCUs by providing millions of students with the security of an academic support system that can eliminate achievement gaps existing between the rich and the poor and between HBCU students and those who attend other institutions. Denying HBCUs this lifeline of support puts students at risk and our history at risk."
“The future for these young people should not be underrated or diminished by those who have no faith in their abilities,” said Miles College Guidance Counselor Rhonda Nunn, citing 81 students losing such an integral benefit. “That anyone is considering withholding funds for the continuation of this program is heartbreaking.”
We’re also hoping that DeVos decides to actively make sure that this important program continues. It's what Mary McLeod Bethune would do.