This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield Hall 218
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
UW-Eau Claire Offers Series Of Programs
To Assist Low-Income People Earn Degrees
phone (715) 836-4741
fax (715) 836-2900

MAILED: July 19, 1999

EAU CLAIRE — A series of grants totaling almost $4.2 million awarded to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire by the federal government is allowing the university to help people of all ages earn a post-secondary degree regardless of their family's low-income status.
"If people are going to move up the income ladder, we have to keep the door to education open," said Joseph Hisrich, associate director of Academic and Career Services and coordinator of UW-Eau Claire's TRIO grant proposals. "These federal programs are one way of doing that."
The U.S. Department of Education offers funding for a number of TRIO programs, programs that primarily assist people from families where the annual household income is less than $24,000 and where neither parent has earned a college degree. The programs, named TRIO years ago when just three programs were available, are funded at colleges and universities nationally based on a competitive grant process.
UW-Eau Claire recently was awarded the Robert E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement TRIO program, making it the fourth such program at UW-Eau Claire. Other TRIO programs housed at UW-Eau Claire include Upward Bound, the Educational Opportunity Center and the Student Support Services program.
"We're creating a pipeline to help get students to complete high school, enroll in college, complete college and, if appropriate, enroll in graduate programs," Hisrich said, noting that the programs available at UW-Eau Claire meet peoples' needs at all points in their academic lives. "We're particularly excited to receive the McNair program because it gives UW-Eau Claire a full complement of TRIO grants."
The Upward Bound program helps prepare high school students to get into post-secondary institutions, Student Support Services helps students get off to a strong start in their academic careers, the McNair program will enhance a students' final undergraduate years and prepare them for graduate school, and the EOC works with adults who are interested in furthering their education.
The TRIO grants are more important than ever because research indicates that people from low-income families find it extremely difficult to pursue higher education, Hisrich said. For example, he cites a study from the 1970s that showed that nearly 50 percent of the children from families in the top quarter of the nation's income bracket pursued a college degree while just 4 percent of those from the lowest quarter earned a degree. In the 1990s, the percent in the high-income bracket jumped to over 80 percent, while the percent in the lowest income bracket stayed at 4 percent.
"I don't think it's an exaggeration to say low-income individuals are almost disappearing from higher education," Hisrich said, adding that the research also showed that those in the lower income households who did complete a college degree frequently did so with the help of a TRIO program.
Given the lower-than-average incomes earned in the Chippewa Valley, the TRIO programs are extremely valuable here, Hisrich said. "There is a high need in the area for these programs," he said. "The programs provide very real support to the community and region as well as the university."
Regardless of what party has controlled the White House, the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives, the TRIO programs have remained intact, Hisrich said. "I think it's recognized across the board that these programs really are successful," he said. "The programs offer a ladder for success, and that is essential for the American dream to work."
The U.S. Department of Education recently informed UW-Eau Claire that it has again been awarded an Upward Bound grant totaling $1.1 million, or $275,639 annually for a four-year cycle. This is the third time UW-Eau Claire's program has been funded for a four-year cycle.
The Upward Bound programs help high school students prepare for higher education. Participants receive instruction in literature, composition, mathematics, science and foreign language on UW-Eau Claire's campus after school and during a six-week summer program. UW-Eau Claire's program is one of 681 Upward Bound programs in operation throughout the United States. The Upward Bound program at UW-Eau Claire serves 50 students from three area high schools — Eau Claire Memorial, Eau Claire North and Regis High School.
"The program encourages students to pursue a post-secondary education," Hisrich said. "Staff spend lots of time both with the students and their families trying to help them select the most appropriate post-secondary institution for them."
The program at UW-Eau Claire has an emphasis on providing English as a Second Language support, Hisrich said, adding that the staff also work with high school students' families to help them understand how to apply for financial aid.
Kimamo Wahome, director of Upward Bound, and Hisrich wrote the most recent grant proposal.
UW-Eau Claire also is in the second of a four-year funding cycle for the Student Support Services program, which has been funded at the university since 1978. To support the program, UW-Eau Claire receives $262,719 a year for four years, or about $1.1 million total.
Dollars from this TRIO program provide support to 300 currently enrolled UW-Eau Claire students. Support comes in a variety of forms, including tutorial support, additional advising and career services. It also funds a number of ESL initiatives on campus and it funds services to students with disabilities.
"It's designed to increase the retention of first-generation, low-income students," Hisrich said, adding that throughout the years dollars from this program have been used to implement a number of pilot projects — such as offering remedial courses on campus — which later were adopted by the campus as a whole. "A number of innovative programs have been developed as a result of this TRIO program."
The new McNair program will provide 20 UW-Eau Claire students with student-faculty collaborative research opportunities, as well as help with completing graduate school applications and lining up financial aid support for graduate studies. The U.S. Department of Education funded the program at $190,000 annually for four years, or $780,000.
Hisrich said that while the Student Support Services grant helps students get off to a strong start in their undergraduate careers, the McNair program will help position them for moving on to graduate school. The research opportunity and the guidance in helping these students work through the application and financial aid processes are equally important, Hisrich said, adding that students who have parents who have graduated from a post-secondary institution typically don't need as much help working through the application processes.
"As the cost of education has gone up, we've seen grants for higher education being replaced with loans," Hisrich said. "It's difficult for all families to negotiate the system, but it's extremely difficult for low-income families. It's almost overwhelming to them."
UW-Eau Claire's fourth TRIO program, the Educational Opportunity Center, is in the second year of a five-year funding cycle. The EOC award was for $245,210 yearly for five years, or $1.2 million total. This was the second time the U.S. Department of Education funded UW-Eau Claire's EOC program, Hisrich said, adding that just the top 10 percent of the 100 EOC programs in the country are funded for five-year cycles. Dr. Patricia Quinn is the director of the EOC and the author of the UW-Eau Claire grant proposal.
The EOC provides career and education information to adults in a 10-county area, as well as trying to connect those adults to post-secondary institutions that might best meet their needs. It serves about 1,000 people each year.
"The EOC housed at UW-Eau Claire has been highly successful," Hisrich said.

UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741

Updated: July 19, 1999