Merced County Times Newspaper
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UC to expand college program to low-income students in Gustine

Sixty low-income high school students in Gustine will soon be eligible for assistance with qualifying for college through UC Merced’s Upward Bound program.

The university’s Center for Educational Partnerships recently received a $1.4 million, five year grant from the federal Department of Education to support their work, which will go to expanding the program under a new partnership with the Gustine Unified School District.

Upward Bound started in 2007 with the goal of helping students from disadvantaged communities make the jump to college. The program provides the students with things like after-school tutoring, college visits and a six-week summer academy. It’s designed to address the low rate of college and university-going among students who grow up in poverty and often have to learn English on top of their other studies.

“Projects like Upward Bound are essential to providing students with intensive services that increase their academic and postsecondary readiness and help foster a college-going culture,” said Orquídea Largo, interim associate vice chancellor for student affairs at the CEP, in a recent press release.

The CEP already has a partnership with the Fresno Unified School District, where it operates the Upward Bound program at Hoover High School and Sunnyside High School. In total, the CEP received over $4 million to support the three schools for the next five years.

Upward Bound has helped 327 students from Hoover and Sunnyside over the program’s 15 year lifespan. It maintains an A-G Completion Rate – the share of high school graduates who qualify for a UC or CSU school – of 52 percent and has enrolled 75 percent of its students in some form of post-secondary education. It’s currently working with 72 first-generation, low-income students.

There has been a slow but steady increase in the number of students from low-income backgrounds making it to college. In 1996, about 12 percent of undergraduates in the US were from families who lived in poverty. That number increased to 20 percent by 2016, according to a study by Pew Research, but the jump was mostly limited to community colleges and private for-profit colleges.

The percentage of poor students in the most selective institutions only increased by three percent in the same time frame. By contrast, the percentage of non-white undergraduates increased across all higher education institutions, elite and otherwise, by 20 percentage points from 1996 to 2016.

California is ahead of the rest of the country, however. More low-income students make it to college here than other states, and they make up a larger share of the student body as well, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

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