Decision Should Help Hundreds of Disadvantaged Northern Maine High School Students Pursue Higher Education
Washington, D.C. — Following a months’ long bipartisan push from the Maine Delegation, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Representatives Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree announced today that the U.S. Department of Education has agreed to review an application submitted by the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) that was previously rejected due to minor formatting issues. The Maine delegation has repeatedly raised this issue to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who told members of a House Appropriations hearing today that she had decided to allow UMPI’s application and others applications to be evaluated on the merits.
“The Department’s initial refusal to review the University of Maine at Presque Isle and other institutions’ applications due to minor formatting issues simply defied common sense. We worked tirelessly to reverse this senseless bureaucratic decision that jeopardized the education and hopes of hundreds of students in Maine who depend on Upward Bound to succeed in higher education,” said Senators Collins and King and Representatives Poliquin and Pingree in a joint statement. “We are delighted to announce that the Department of Education has now agreed to review UMPI’s application on the merits.”
UMPI’s application for the Upward Bound program was one of dozens of TRIO grant applications that were rejected earlier this year due to arbitrary formatting requirements issued by the previous administration. In UMPI’s case, the issue was with two infographics on the 65-page application that had 1.5 line spacing rather than double line spacing.
On April 14th, Senators Collins and King and Representatives Poliquin and Pingree sent a letter to Secretary DeVos to express their strong concern with the Department’s decision. In addition, 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 3rd, Representative Poliquin, co-led a letter in the House signed by 32 Representatives, including Representative Pingree, to the Department with strong concerns on the matter and possible solutions. Senator Collins also included a provision in the omnibus funding bill signed into law earlier this month that strongly encouraged the Department of Education to allow these grant applications to move forward. Last week, Senators Collins and Tester sent a letter signed by 19 Senators, including Senator King, to Secretary DeVos calling her attention to this language in the omnibus.
TRIO programs like Upward Bound help low-income, first-generation, and other students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue higher education.