Upward Bound Press Release

(June 30, 2014) 

Upward Bound, First U.S. Program to Help Students Escape Poverty Through Higher Education, Celebrates 50 Years

Millions of Alums Contribute Nearly Five Times the Amount of Program Cost in Taxes

Washington, D.C. — Upward Bound, the country’s first federal program to prepare low-income students for college, is celebrating 50 years of helping high school students go from poverty to the middle class through higher education. Among the millions of alumni who got their start through the program are two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis; best-selling author Wil Haygood; ABC Primetime host John Quinones; GE Asset Management President and CEO Dmitri Stockton, Democratic National Committee Vice-Chairwoman Donna Brazile, and a varied list of astronauts, judges, scientists, politicians, actors, musicians, scholars, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

Since Upward Bound began in 1964 as a key element of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the program has motivated and tutored low income students from families where neither parent holds a degree. “Upward Bound works in nearly a thousand American communities, helping students lift themselves, their families and our economy up through college education,” said Maureen Hoyler, President, Council for Opportunity in Education.

Upward Bound provides college preparation to students between the ages of 13 and 19, as well as older veterans, who live at or below 150% of the federal poverty level where their chances of earning a bachelor’s degree are nearly nine times less than those of their peers in the top family-income bracket. Despite enormous challenges unique to a low-income environment, Upward Bound participants are three times more likely to complete a college degree in six years than those who did not participate in college access services, according to the Pell Institute, a non-profit educational research organization.

Students who complete the course earn more money than they would with only a high school diploma and contribute nearly five times the cost of the program in taxes, the research shows.

“As someone who benefited greatly from Upward Bound, I can say it was a truly transformational experience on my journey to higher education, and has had a similar impact on countless individuals,” said GE Asset Management CEO Stockton, who enrolled in the program as a high-school student in Virginia.

Upward Bound began as an experimental program in the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1964, enrolling 2,061 participants at 17 programs the following year. Today more than 80,000 students participate in 964 programs nationwide.

“Upward Bound helps level the playing field for students whose talents would be overlooked, perhaps mine included,” said J. Keith Motley, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Dr. Motley was a student in the University of Pittsburgh’s Upward Bound program. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northeastern University and a doctor of philosophy degree from Boston College.

Upward Bound’s importance continues to mount with the rising value of a college degree. Where less than 30 percent of U.S. jobs in 1973 required more than a high school diploma, it’s projected that by 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require higher education, according to a study by the Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

For more information, please visit the Upward Bound 50th Anniversary section of the Council for Opportunity in Education website.