Grant Denied

A group of high school graduates pose with their Mt. SAC Upward Bound sashes. Courtesy of Mt. SAC Upward Bound

A group of high school graduates pose with their Mt. SAC Upward Bound sashes. Courtesy of Mt. SAC Upward Bound

Mt. SAC was one of dozens of colleges that had a grant proposal for low-income students rejected solely because of formatting errors.

The Upward Bound program, which focusses on aiding incoming freshmen who come from homes with little income and parents who have not attained a bachelor’s degree, had its grant application denied not because the program did not qualify, but because the document contained a minor calculation error.

Over 40 colleges had their Upward Bound applications rejected from the Department of Education due to the 65-page document having slight errors such as improper spacing, margins or font.

This withholding of over $10 million in grant funds affects at least 2,400 high school students belonging to families who don’t have adequate income to send their children to college.

The disqualification of grant funding based solely on format mistakes caused outrage on both sides of the political spectrum, as citizens and congressmen alike contacted Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, demanding a revision of the rules. Consequently, DeVos issued a memo stating that while the department is allowed to establish voluntary page limits and formatting for the program, applications cannot be denied based on these criteria.

The memo says nothing about applications that have already been denied. However, Mt. SAC Director of Trio Programs Jose Martinez-Saldana said the application that was previously denied for a calculation error is now being reconsidered.

“We submitted two grant proposals for Upward Bound,” Martinez-Saldana said. “One is to continue the existing program that we have … that one is the one that got funded. We did submit another proposal to establish services at two additional schools, and that is the one that initially was declined.”

The new grant proposal covers two high schools in Baldwin Park that are not currently being served by the Upward Bound program. The program would cover a minimum of 50 students, but could assist up to 55 students every year for the next five years, as the grants are awarded on a five-year basis.

“We went over on our budget [by] $400. I look at that as a small, insignificant error,” Martinez-Saldana added. “If the application is strong and compelling opposed to other proposals, then it should be considered … In the past, proposals could ask for whatever amount of money they needed, and if the program didn’t have enough funding, they would receive what was available to them.”

If their proposal is rejected, the Upward Bound program will have to wait another five years for the next round of grant funding to increase the size of the program.

The program at Mt. SAC currently assists 70 students and operates in conjunction with two campuses: Ganesha High School in Pomona, and La Puente High School. The grant proposal that was submitted to continue funding for these schools has already been approved.