Washington, D.C. - This week, Kathleen Smith, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, wrote to U.S. Senator Susan Collins, informing her that the Department is notifying the University of Maine at Presque Isle and several other institution’s that their Upward Bound applications are being reviewed. The Department reversed its previous refusal to consider these applications over minor formatting issues following Senator Collins’ months-long advocacy. Upward Bound and similar TRIO programs help low-income, first-generation, and other students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue higher education.
In her letter, Ms. Smith cited two provisions championed by Senator Collins that were included in the fiscal year 2017 Appropriations omnibus, which provided the Department with the ability to review the Upward Bound applications. The first was an additional $50 million for TRIO that Senator Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, for which she successfully advocated in a letter last year. The second was language authored by Senator Collins that “strongly encouraged” the Department “to provide flexibility to [affected] applicants by permitting submission of a corrected application.”
Over the previous two months, Senator Collins worked tirelessly with other members of the Maine delegation and a bipartisan group of Senators to urge the Department of Education to overturn its initial rejection of dozens of Upward Bound applications. In addition to securing additional money for TRIO and pressing for action in the Omnibus, Senator Collins joined Senator King and Representatives Poliquin and Pingree in sending a letter to Secretary DeVos on April 14th to express their strong concern with the Department’s decision. Moreover, on April 28th, Senator Collins and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) led a letter signed by 25 Senators, including Senator King, urging the Department of Education to read and score these grant applications. On May 15th, Senators Collins and Tester sent a letter signed by 19 Senators, including Senator King, to Secretary DeVos calling her attention to the language Senator Collins authored in the omnibus.
The Council for Opportunity in Education recently sent Senator Collins a letter to thank her for her leadership in Congress.
“Thank you for your strong leadership in galvanizing your colleagues in Congress to ensure that students served by TRIO Upward Bound programs across the nation will not miss out on further enrichment opportuniti8es because of bureaucratic oversight,” wrote Maureen Hoyler, the President of the Council for Opportunity in Education. “Because of your efforts, students who participate in currently funded Upward Bound programs will have the opportunity to continue benefitting from the life-changing academic supportive services provided by TRIO…Without champions like you, the trajectory of the program’s success would have been cut short.”
Last month, Senator Collins led 37 Senators in writing to the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee to advocate for funding for TRIO in the fiscal year 2018 spending bill.