From test preparationclasses to meetings with higher education counselors, high school students from low-incomebackgrounds don’t always get access to the resources that their peers do. This has been mitigated in recent years through federally funded programs, although the recent White House budget may change this.
Under the proposed federal budget, TRIO — a consortium of programs that includes Upward Bound and Student Support Services — would have its budgetslashed by 10 percent. Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs— a state and partnership grant program for public schools in low-income neighborhoods — would lose one third of its federal funding.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said reductions in funding would diminish the after-school and summer opportunities that equip low-income high school students with the skills and knowledge to apply to and attend college.
“Every step of the way,” Furda said, “if you’re cutting programs that are supporting students, nobody benefits from that.”
Furda said that while support for low-income students must come from a combination of public and private initiatives, support from the government is key.
“If you pull from one, you’re not going to be able to fill it from another,” he said.
Furda also noted that the federal government is in a unique position to support low-income students because of their financial resources.
“Nobody has the reach of the federal government in terms of pure dollars,” Furda said. “Even a multibillion-dollar corporation, like Comcast, can’t match what the federal government can do and what some state governments can do.”
Co-Founder of One-Stop College Counseling and 1986 Wharton graduate Laurie Kopp Weingartencharacterized programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP as “phenomenally important” and “crucial to the success of so many students.”
“They need to inspire kids, motivate kids, guide them in the right direction,” Weingarten said. “The thought of cutting funds geared towards these students who are at a high risk of either not attending college or dropping out of college is not a good thought.”
Weingarten explained that these programs facilitate constant interaction between mentors and high school students which is very valuable to these students.
“What I found talking to the students who have gone through these programs is that they talk equally about the college support and the social support and the emotional support,” Weingarten said. “Even though [high school counselors] want to help, sometimes there’s not enough time in the day to be able to support these kids.”
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College freshman Dan Gonzalez,who currently works in GEAR UP, said that as things are, these programs do not receive enough funding to support low-income high school students. Further cuts to these programs will just exacerbate the problem, he added.
“There’s always someone in your way who doesn’t want to help you,” Gonzalez said. “My mentor would try to start a project, then she’s told she can only spend $500 to implement this weeklong event or programming, or the funding she was anticipating didn’t come at all.”
“This wouldn’t be the first time that GEAR UP or TRIO or any other program that receives funding deals with cuts and having to work with less,” he said. “They’ve done that before time and time again.”
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