Witt regains $500K grant for low-income students after spacing error

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Wittenberg program regains funding

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A more than 50-year-old program at Wittenberg for low-income high school students will continue after its funding was threatened because of a spacing error on its grant application.

More than 3,000 students have gone through Wittenberg University’s Upward Bound program, Director Eddie Chambers said. Since 1966 the program has been offered to would-be first generation college students in and around Springfield to prepare them for college.

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“What we try to do is give our students a taste of the college experience,” Chambers said.

The program employs Wittenberg students to act as mentors and tutors for the high schoolers. Students also go on field trips, he said. It’s funded almost entirely by a $500,000 annual federal grant.

“Many of them have never been on the campus,” he said. “They have never experienced college life in general.”

Chambers’ office is covered in photos of every class of Upward Bound students. This year’s program will include about 150 students, he said.

But the program almost had to shut down when its grant application was denied earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education because a few pages weren’t double spaced.

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“It was a minor, unintentional spacing error,” Chambers said.

That was scary news for Upward Bound alumni like Arlin Avery, a Springfield native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati and works as an engineer.

“The benefits that I gained from the program, I would love to see that going for really the next 50 or 70 years,” Avery said. “… It was kind of hard to hear that news.”

Chambers and the university fought through the summer to get the Department of Education to reconsider the application. It was one of 77 applications that had been disregarded for formatting errors, he said.

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Springfield, was notified by Wittenberg about the decision and joined in support of efforts to get the decision overturned, along with about 30 other members of the House and 24 members of the Senate.

“That’s the epitome of bureaucracy running amok,” Davidson previously told the Springfield News-Sun. “The people were basically saying, ‘No, this isn’t the kind of government we want.’”

The Department of Education agreed to look again at the applications that had been denied, and Wittenberg recently learned it would receive funding for Upward Bound for the next five years.

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“That was a long, horrendous process,” Chambers said. “And it was an uphill battle.”

He’s glad the program will continue but the process of regaining funding hurt the summer Upward Bound program.

“We had to unfortunately lose some students in the process that would have been out here for the summer,” he said, “because we had to keep our numbers lower than what we normally would’ve been funded for.”

His wall of college graduation announcements in his office is proof the program works, he said.

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