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Community college grant to aid area high-schoolers

Community college grant to aid area high-schoolers

July 15th, 2017 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

State Fair Community College announced Wednesday more than a quarter-million dollars will be available from the U.S. Department of Education to serve students in Eldon and Camdenton.

The federal education department awarded $257,000 to State Fair for an Upward Bound program to serve 60 eligible high school students in the Eldon and Camdenton school districts for one year, with the possibility of the program lasting up to five years.

Upward Bound "provides tutoring, student success courses, pro-active academic counseling, financial literacy counseling, cultural experiences and more that help students succeed," Brent Bates State Fair's vice president for educational and student support services, explained in a news release.

The free academic support services are aimed to help students complete high school and succeed in college.

The superintendents of the Eldon and Camdenton school districts worked with State Fair to apply for the federal grant.

"Currently, (State Fair) provides our students with the opportunity to graduate high school with an associate of arts degree. Our students also can enroll in the nursing or industrial technology programs offered at the SFCC-Eldon campus. The Upward Bound support services will offer even more opportunities for our students to be successful in life," Eldon R-1 Superintendent Matt Davis said in the news release.

Davis told the News Tribune a new feature of the Upward Bound program will require students to attend State Fair's Sedalia campus for six weeks during a summer break. While there, students will enroll in one class and get college credit for it.

"I think it kind of depends on the student," Davis said of what courses students could take. Options might include college algebra, speech and introduction to business. The experience is intended to give students an idea of what living and working on a college campus is like.

He also said it would be flexible as to which of the three summers in high school a student in the program could attend at State Fair.

Upward Bound is one of eight programs under the federal TRIO program umbrella that "serve and assist first-generation college students, low-income individuals and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post baccalaureate programs," according to the government website. Military veterans are also assisted through the Veterans Upward Bound program under the umbrella.

Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia already has a State Fair-run Upward Bound program that's been operating for 14 years.

"Over the course of the last five years, it ranged between 70-90 percent success in terms of students who've enrolled in post-secondary education" after high school, said Jeromy Layman, State Fair's director of the Upward Bound program at Smith-Cotton.

He added the ACT scores of students in the Smith-Cotton program have consistently been in the high 20s, out of a possible 36.

The program serves 50 students annually, on a rolling basis, he said. That means as students in the program graduate or transfer to other schools, the available spots are filled with other students.

The same structure will be set up at Eldon and Camdenton. Layman said the goal is to split evenly the total of 60 high school students who can be helped to 30 at each school.

Participants must be a first-generation college student, at risk for academic failure or meet an income guideline defined annually by the federal government to qualify for Upward Bound's free services, according to State Fair's website on the Smith-Cotton program.

To be considered eligible as first-generation, students can't live with a natural or adoptive parent who has a bachelor's degree.

The grant funds are eligible for one year, from Sept. 1 of this year through Aug. 31, 2018. The grant cycle is anticipated to last five years.

"That just means that we are a discretionary funded program. Each year, Congress has to vote on our funding," Layman said.

The Trump administration's proposed 2018 discretionary budget, released in March, would cut $193 million from TRIO programs and GEAR UP, another federal education program that strives to increase college attendance of low-income students from high-poverty middle and high schools. The deduction of $193 million represents about a 5.32 percent cut from the combined previous budgets of the programs.

"Funding to TRIO programs is reduced in areas that have limited evidence on the overall effectiveness in improving student outcomes," the administration's proposed budget said. The document does not elaborate on how the proposed cuts would affect Upward Bound specifically.

State Fair's application to serve Eldon and Camdenton was the only new Upward Bound request funded in Missouri.