Helping low income and first-generation college students is the mission of the University of Arkansas Talent Search Programs.
“Within about a year’s time students, if they are in the program for 6 to 7 years, within a year’s time of graduating from college and getting a college degree and getting a good paying job they will have paid back what has been invested in them through this program,” said Nathan Brown, Director of College Project Talent Search.
The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is one of the many taking a hit under national budget cuts.
“We really are out of options, it would be a reduction in the number of students to be served or it would be an elimination of critical services that are vital to doing what we do and do very well,” said Talent Search Program Director, Gina Ervin.
Ervin said they haven’t seen a funding increase in six years.
“We are doing more with less already and we have already cut two staff positions in order to keep up with the rising costs that are affiliated with implementing the program.”
The Upward Bound program, which helps students get into college and remain in college, also faces cuts.
“Actually we have been asked to increase our number of students while our funding has been level and now we`re going to be asked to take another cut while still serving actually more students than we have before,” explained Keith Brink, Upward Bound program Director.
The programs serve 40 schools and help thousands of students in the state. Last year 89 percent of students went on to college.
Ervin says the investment per student is $454 a year, an investment students pay off to the economy.
The staff is attempting to keep this program alive.
“It’s important for us as a staff to help these students because each one of us lived this life as a first generation college student and we know the struggles first hand that these students go through,” said Aimee Gutowski, Advisor for Educational Talent Search.
Students have submitted letters about their experience with the program; those letters will be sent to Washington, D.C.
“Just yesterday reading the story about how her father passed away and her mom is having to support four children and work and support them and how this program can help this student go to college and achieve their goal and dream,” said Gutowski.
Many people say spending cuts are painful but necessary.
U.S. Senator John Boozman released a statement on the issue, while not specifically addressing cuts at the U of A saying, “We absolutely have to cut spending. While sequestration is not the optimal way to accomplish deficit reduction, it will at least force Washington to spend less, something that it has failed to do in years.”