Suffolk gets $1 million veterans grant

Article by: Derek Anderson

Suffolk recently received a $1 million grant over the span of the next four years to help fund the Veteran’s Upward Bound program (VUB),  along with 48 other colleges nationwide, to provide the a program designed to help military veterans pursue further education.

“The Veteran’s Upward Bound program is a pre-college program for military veterans,” said president of the program Julia O’Dell. The purpose is to teach military veterans the skills needed to enroll into a college or university. “It isn’t limited to four year institutes,” said O’Dell, “it is also offered in some community colleges and technical colleges.”

Suffolk is one of the newest additions to the group and will make applications available in November.

“We will be taking 120 veterans into this program,” said Keren Zuniga McDowell, Director of Suffolk’s Office of Academic Access and Opportunity. These 120 veterans will be coached in multiple subjects such as English, math, science and foreign languages as well as developing a plan for their futures.

There are specific restrictions to applicants, however. Applicants must be a U.S. military veteran of at least 181 days of active duty service and discharged for anything other than dishonorable conduct. They also need to have a low income lifestyle – dubbed so by the Dept. of Education – and show academic need. Each different location of VUB tends to have smaller specific requirements that applicants have to abide to.

“Schools apply for grants every four or five years, so [Suffolk] can’t apply every year for VUB,” said O’Dell. The most recent applications were due in 2006 and schools were selected to receive grants in 2007. “In 2006, we received 90 applications from schools for the VUB program,” said O’Dell. “Only 45 schools were funded out of those 90 that applied.”

Suffolk was not originally on the list of 45 schools to be funded, but scored highly on the application. The U.S. Department of Education, the main support of the program, happened to find recent savings to further fund more schools for the VUB. Suffolk was so high on the waiting list that they were awarded the $1 million grant.

McDowell said it was being spent in a combination of ways. “It is being spent on staff and direct service,” said McDowell. Staff will be provided by Suffolk to help tutor the returning veterans and advise them how to continue their education. “There will also be a monthly stipend for each veteran for taking part in the program.”

The VUB program was founded in 1972 when veterans were returning back from Vietnam. There were more programs then than there are now, but the number of schools participating is increasing.

“Not all states have the Veteran’s Upward Bound program,” said O’Dell.

Massachusetts has two programs, one at UMass Boston and now one at Suffolk. VUB is a federal TRIO program, a group that is part of the U.S. Dept. of Education that reaches out to support and motivate students from troubled or disadvantaged backgrounds. Suffolk has two TRIO programs, the Upward Bound program and the previously instated McNair program.

“We are excited about receiving the Veterans Upward Bound grant and adding this invaluable program to our TRIO family at Suffolk,” said McDowell.