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UMPI to receive Upward Bound grant funding after line spacing error

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — An “absurd bureaucratic decision” by the Department of Education that prohibited a grant application review due to line spacing issue has been reversed with the help of U.S. Senator Susan Collins.

Following a months-long push led by Senator Collins, the Department of Education reversed a decision to reject a grant application from the University of Maine at Presque Isle, which prevented the university from receiving funding for its Upward Bound Program, according to Collins’ office.

“I am absolutely delighted to announce that UMPI has been awarded more than $639,000 for its Upward Bound Program,” said Sen. Collins. “The Department of Education’s initial refusal to review this application due to a minor line spacing issue was absurd. It is no surprise that when the Department reversed this decision — after a month-long push from the Maine delegation — and agreed to review the application on the merits, UMPI’s application was selected. This funding will help nearly 1,000 students over the next five years who depend on Upward Bound to pursue their higher education goals.”

Collins, a member of the Senate Education Committee, worked 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.

“I feel relieved,” UMPI President Ray Rice said about hearing the news. “I’d be lying to say if I thought I was totally surprised by it because just the strength of the programs over the years, and we knew it was not approved just because of the technicality of the line spacing. Once they told us it would be given full consideration then just like any other grant request I felt pretty confident we’d get it.”

Rice thanked all the legislative delegates who helped in the process.

“(Upward Bound) really provides a pathway to a college education for Aroostook County students, which is especially important in our area where so many kids come from first generation families that don’t have parents that attended higher education and where there’s so much income disparity here so income issues are critical in that regard,” Rice said.

Collins also championed two provisions that were included in the fiscal year 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which provided the Department with the ability to review the Upward Bound applications. The first was an additional $50 million for TRIO for which Senator Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, 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.”

In addition to securing additional money for TRIO and pressing for action in the Omnibus, Senator Collins joined Senator Angus King and Representatives Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree in sending a letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos on April 14 to express their strong concern with the Department’s decision.

On April 28, 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 opportunities 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.

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