DCTC Upward Bound Receives Nearly $3 Million in Federal Grant Funding

Five years of funding helps low-income, potential first-generation college students access higher education

The U.S. Department of Education announced that Dakota County Technical College will receive nearly $3 million in federal Upward Bound grant funding to help more low-income students become the first members of their families to earn college degrees.

“We received two grants with each one amounting to around $300,000 annually for five years, or $1.5 million,” said Caitlin Siefkes, TRIO/Upward Bound director at DCTC. “Since we have two grants that is a total of nearly $3 million dollars in grant funding.”

Caitlin added that the federal grant funding will help 63 students at Burnsville High School and 60 students between Two Rivers and South St. Paul high schools prepare for and enroll in college. The Two Rivers/South St. Paul Upward Bound grant has been in place for two decades, starting in 2002; the Burnsville grant started in 2012.

“I was excited to learn our UB grants were renewed,” said Michael Berndt, DCTC and Inver Hills Community College president. “The program aligns well with our strategic plan in strengthening equity-informed pathways to postsecondary education.”

TRIO/Upward Bound makes a real difference

Between 2017 and 2021, 81 percent of DCTC Upward Bound graduates enrolled in college the fall immediately after high school graduation, compared to only 58 percent of UB-eligible students at the DCTC TRIO/UB program target schools.

Fifty-six percent of DCTC UB alumni earned a college degree, compared to only 37 percent of their UB-eligible peers who did not participate in Upward Bound.

DCTC UB students have attended all types of colleges across the country. They attend technical and community colleges like DCTC and Normandale, Big Ten schools like the University of Minnesota, elite institutions like Wellesley and Georgetown, and HBCUs like North Carolina A&T.

More about TRIO/Upward Bound

Ingri Ramirez-Martin

One of the federal TRIO Programs, Upward Bound is an intensive intervention program that prepares students for higher education through various enrichment courses. At least two-thirds of the students in each local Upward Bound program are from low-income economic backgrounds and families in which neither parent has a bachelor’s degree.

Many Upward Bound alumni have gone on to great success, among them Viola Davis, Academy Award-winning actress, John Quiñones, ABC News correspondent, Patrick Ewing, Hall of Fame NBA player.

“I’m very glad our grants received funding so we can continue to provide much-needed services to low-income, potential first-generation students in Dakota County,” Caitlin said. “Our program prepares students for the academic and social expectations of college by providing comprehensive advising, instruction, and tutoring. Our advisors have small caseloads of students, allowing them to provide intensive 1:1 support and mentoring throughout a student’s entire four-year high school career. Students leave our program feeling more confident in themselves and their abilities to be successful.”

Caitlin reported that the new grants expand the college’s UB program from serving 110 students to serving 123. The program will also be able to offer additional services such as:

  • Support for UB seniors the summer between high school graduation and fall college enrollment
  • Outdoor leadership development programming to support the social and emotional development of UB students
  • Workshops that will provide wraparound services for participants and their families

Campus-based Upward Bound programs provide students instruction in literature, composition, mathematics, science, and foreign languages during the school year and the summer. Upward Bound also provides intensive mentoring and support for students as they prepare for college entrance exams and tackle admission applications, financial aid, and scholarship forms.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 86 percent of Upward Bound participants enroll in postsecondary institutions immediately following high school graduation. In FY21, more than 70,000 students enrolled in 966 Upward Bound TRIO projects in the United States.

In 1964, the Economic Opportunity Act established Upward Bound as a pilot program in response to the War on Poverty. It was the first of eight federal TRIO programs to later be authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success, bolsters students from low-income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had and helps remove obstacles preventing students from thriving academically.

“As systemic inequality and financial hardship discourage students from succeeding in college, TRIO programs like Upward Bound take on new importance because they continue to help students who are low-income and first-generation to earn college degrees,” said Maureen Hoyler, president of the nonprofit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) in Washington, D.C. COE is dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities nationwide.

As of 2021, more than 3,000 TRIO projects serve approximately 855,000 participants yearly. TRIO projects are in every state and territory in the nation.

Learn more about TRIO/Upward Bound at DCTC by contacting:

Caitlin Siefkes
Director of TRIO/Upward Bound
Dakota County Technical College

Selena Sysourath and Soknary Men