Grant funding threatened

Programs like Upward Bound at Chico State could be cut 10 percent if Trump’s budget plan goes forward

Candy Pahua and Kyle Peterson both benefit from federal grant funding designed to help low-income, first-generation students graduate from college.

Candy Pahua and Kyle Peterson both benefit from federal grant funding designed to help low-income, first-generation students graduate from college.

photo by Meredith J. Cooper

When Kyle Peterson was in the eighth grade, he had no visions of pursuing a college degree. Originally from Corning, his family moved to Chico that year and he enrolled in Upward Bound, a program offered through Chico State designed for students just like him. It offered mentorship, tutoring and an introduction to what college could offer—for both him and his parents.

“It gave me the opportunity to realize that college wasn’t out of reach,” he said during a recent interview. “I had no idea it was even a possibility.”

Now Peterson is a sophomore at Chico State studying electrical engineering.

But President Trump’s recent budget proposal has given him reason to pause. Among the cuts to federal programs is the one that funds Upward Bound. TRIO, offered through the federal Department of Education, encompasses eight grant programs designed to help low-income students become the first in their families to graduate from college. Trump has proposed to cut 10 percent from the TRIO budget. For Chico State, that would mean the loss of nearly $235,000 annually, which would provide services for about 180 students.

“With our economy, the money could be allocated elsewhere, but where it is with TRIO is where it should be,” Peterson said. “The students in this program will help run this country one day—they’ll become doctors and lawyers ….”

A case in point is Maria Moreno. She enrolled in Upward Bound when she was in 10th grade at Gridley High School. Today, Moreno is director of Upward Bound at Chico State. And she’s worked with the program in some capacity for the past 25 years, starting during her time as a student.

“This program really did change my life,” she said during a recent interview in her office in Chico State’s Student Services building. “I don’t know that I would have gone to college otherwise, because it was so foreign to me.”

Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math and Science are the largest of the TRIO programs offered through Chico State, serving 317 students from throughout the North State and receiving over $1.4 million annually. Altogether, the TRIO programs serve 1,806 students locally in sixth grade through college graduation.

“It’s critical that we keep this funding,” Moreno said. She recalled a previous threat to TRIO moneys during the Bush administration, but said she feels more unease this time around. “This is a whole different story—I don’t know if we’ve ever seen this before, this putting education last—at least that’s how it seems.

“I see it as short-sighted. Investing these funds into these kids now really does pay off in the long run when they graduate into professional careers.”

Candy Pahua is one of those soon-to-be graduates. A senior health education major, she joined TRIO’s Student Support Services program her junior year.

“It offers me a safe space on campus,” she said. “As a first-generation college student, I didn’t know what I was doing my freshman and sophomore years. Student Support Services helped guide me and give me the skillset and support to garner two internships and an externship. I needed that supporting guide because I can’t necessarily go to my parents—they don’t know what to say.”

Pahua is currently working for the American Lung Association and has a job lined up at a summer camp in Sanger, outside of Fresno, for after graduation.

“TRIO had mentors for me, offered advice for interviews. I never thought I’d be someone who’d go do a job interview in San Francisco, in AT&T Park.” (She was offered that job, but turned it down for the one in Sanger.)

If funding is cut to TRIO, “I’d be personally heartbroken,” Pahua said. “We’d be limiting how many students can benefit from these programs.”