After forty years in operation, Jacksonville University is closing the doors on a program geared toward underprivileged high school students.
JU's Upward Bound program serviced 89 students who will be displaced this summer.
Nationally, Upward Bound has gained recognition for helping high schoolers with college prep, standardized tests, campus tours and scholarship applications. The program includes a six-week 'summer camp ' stay in JU dormitories with counselors.
Program director Cecilia Severin said the closure isn't due to budget cuts in Washington, but rather JU's decision not to re-apply for the federal grant.
"They did say it was not the program and the success and wonderful things the program has done over the years," said Severin. "It's more a matter of them wanting to focus their energies in other areas and not on the students in the community who need it and who don't generally go to JU. Low income students can't afford a private university, for the most part."
The total amount of the grant over the past five years was over two million dollars, said Severin, and it covers all staff salaries, benefits, program supplies and equipment. With grant funds the program has always received, Severin said, the cost to JU has been minimal.
"Although we work with schools with the least resources, we have some of the best students," Severin said. "It's heartbreaking. It's been a pleasure to work with them the past 20 years."
A JU representative said the closure was part of an institution-wide focus on directly impacting the Arlington community, where the university is located.
The majority of Upward Bound's students live on Jacksonville's Northside and Westside. To qualify for the grant, the high schools where students are selected must have a certain percentage of low income families.
JU provided a statement regarding its Upward Bound Program:
Regarding recent questions about Jacksonville University’s relationship with the Upward Bound program, the University has in recent years assessed all of its community engagement efforts with the intent of focusing institution-wide more directly and broadly in Arlington while engaging our students in meaningful ways.
Two years ago, we made the decision not to seek the annual federal grant (starting this year) to sponsor Upward Bound on campus, in order to focus on an invigorated effort to serve Arlington and its residents. The program has known about this decision for some time.
Our newest efforts offer a much more robust opportunity for impact with the same underserved student populations Upward Bound was attempting to reach, but who are instead located within the Arlington community. As we have demonstrated over the past several years, we are deeply committed to renewal in Arlington and to changing lives here.
In devoting thousands of hours of volunteer service to its community, Jacksonville University has formed coalitions with local churches and civic groups; led an effort to designate Arlington as a Community Redevelopment Area; and partnered in the Arlington 2020 effort with activities that allow our students to become role models and encourage elementary, middle and high school students to attend college.
These and other new initiatives combine with investment or more than a half million dollars so far into new needs-based and diversity scholarships to help students not only begin college, but to succeed long-term and graduate.
We are confident our more modern, comprehensive and responsive approach will result in reaching the same goals all of us in the learning field strive for: to ensure that as many deserving youths as possible from challenged backgrounds have a chance at an excellent higher education experience, and to provide our JU students with meaningful community engagement.
Upward Bound is seeking to place their students in other programs in Jacksonville, including those listed below.
Educational Talent Search Programs
FSCJ Educational Talent Search Program on the South Campus - (904) 646-2039 – For students in Englewood, Terry Parker and Samuel W. Wolfson High Schools.
FSCJ Educational Talent Search Downtown Campus – (904) 885-6233 – For students in Andrew Jackson, William M. Raines, A. Philip Randolph and Jean Ribault High Schools.