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ISSUE 118 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/11/2005

Phone, letter campaign challenges budget cuts

By Megan Sutherland
Staff Writer

Friday, March 11, 2005

In his proposed 2006 budget, released Feb. 7, President George W. Bush recommended that the TRiO Educational Talent Search (ETS), TRiO Upward Bound and GEAR UP programs be eliminated from federal funding. The funding would then be used for the No Child Left Behind Federal education plan.

TRiO’s assortment of programs provide tutoring and college prep for first-generation college students preperation, particularly those from low-income, inner city areas. Other services provided include help with completing college applications, career exploration, arranging visits to potential colleges, study skills and ACT preparation.

According to the Department of Education, the TRiO programs are not effective enough and do not provide data detailing the participant’s progress and performance. They also emphasized that No Child Left Behind is a measure which targets everyone, not only those from low income areas, unlike TRiO programs.

At St Olaf, the TRiO and Upward Bound programs are said to have helped recruit a racially, religiously and economically diverse student body. St Olaf works with more than 1,000 students between the three programs, the majority being assisted through TRiO ETS.

In a student-backed response, the Schmidt House has organized a phone and letter-writing campaign to fight the proposed budget cut. Schmidt House member Rachael Dixon ‘05 stressed that the issue is non-partisan, noting that some organizers are Bush supporters and voted for him in the last election. The issue, she says, is something that concerns everyone, regardless of political affiliation.

Representatives and Senators from both parties have expressed anger at the proposal and the Schmidt House believes that petitioning lawmakers to oppose the proposition will be effective in keeping TriO funding. Dixon hopes that this will be something "that will finally allow students, staff [and] faculty on campus to come together for a cause."

In their support of TRiO, house members state that the program is not only necessary but effective.

According to a recent study, 30 percent of those from low-income families enroll in some sort of university program and only five percent end up graduating.

Conversly, approximately 75 percent of high-income high school graduates will enroll in a college or university, and nearly 60 percent of those students will attain a post-secondary degree.

Nearly 100 percent of Upward Bound and TRiO participants graduate from high school and 91 percent attend college. Of those who enroll in college, 70 percent of TRiO Upward Bound, and 58 percent of TRiO ETS alumni receive degrees.

Those who have been touched by TRiO have been vocal about their support for the program. President Thomforde encouraged the student body to contact their representatives and fight against the proposal. 1991 alumna and Upward Bound participant Shadee Hardy says that the program helped her raise her high school GPA and eventually get accepted to St. Olaf.

On both a personal and professional level, she believes that "affording people the resources needed to improve their lives can transform not only the individual but society as a whole."

Jonathan Tischler, a 2002 alumnus, said that the encouragement he received from the entire staff propelled him through the program and that without Upward Bound he would never have attended college.

Both Hardy and Tischler stayed active in the programs while in college, helping tutor students at their former high schools.

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