The U.S. Department of Education has awarded more than $1.3 million in grants for Vermont universities, according to an announcement Thursday, June 1, made by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.).
The grants, awarded through the Upward Bound program, will go to four institutions of higher education to prepare first-generation and low-income students for success in postsecondary education. Offered activities include career and college readiness counseling, connecting high school students with dual enrollment programs, financial aid advisement and resources, and more.
The grants, totaling $1,345,454, include $270,375 to Castleton University, $270,375 to The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College, $334,508 to Lyndon State College, and $470,196 to Johnson State College.
In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: “Vermont’s strength is our people, and we are delighted to announce these grants to help Vermonters succeed in higher education. College is a vital pathway to success, and these grants will help first-generation college students in Vermont flourish in our 21st century economy. We look forward to seeing these universities continue their great work.”
While Vermont boasts one of the highest high school graduation rates in the nation, Vermont’s postsecondary enrollment rate lags behind, with only about 60 percent of all Vermont graduates continuing immediately as compared to 66 percent for the United States. Education experts cite low-income levels and poor social and academic conditions as obstacles to attending college and earning a degree.
Jennifer Jones, director of Castleton University Upward Bound added: “With only a fraction of low-income Vermont high school graduates continuing to college and only a one-third of all adults in Vermont having a bachelor’s degree or higher, Trio programs such as Upward Bound are integral to helping our state close the skills gap. Upward Bound has a profound impact on our families, and helps prepare low-income students for the rigor of a college education and helps them acquire the skills needed for this new economy.”
The fiscal year 2017 federal appropriations bill negotiated by Leahy included $950 million for Trio programs, a $50 million increase. Despite this, Trump’s budget proposal forFY 2018 calls for cuts to this successful program.