By LINDA TETTAMANT
Posted Jun. 4, 2014 @ 3:00 am
President Obama set a lofty 2020 education goal: the United States should have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. Just as lofty is the goal of America’s Promise Alliance: achieving a 90 percent nationwide high school graduation rate for the Class of 2020.
Those marks will not be easy to claim, but one way to meet these important milestones is through increased funding for education in general, and specifically for programs like Mohawk Valley Community College’s Utica GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).
The evidence is clear. The need for college degrees stretches across the income spectrum, and our most financially-vulnerable students must not get left behind, so the Obama administration is correct in promoting the need for a widened college access avenue. As noted by the White House, each year hundreds of thousands of low-income students face barriers to college access and success.
Low-income students often lack the guidance and support they need to prepare for college, apply to the best-fit schools, apply for financial aid, enroll and persist in their studies, and ultimately graduate. As a result, large gaps remain in educational achievement between students from low-income families and their high-income peers.
Increasing college opportunity is not just an economic imperative, but a reflection of our values. We need to reach, inspire, and empower every student, regardless of background, to make sure that our country is a place where if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.
What the White House must remember, however, is that college preparation, college fit, financial aid awareness, and a focus on educational persistence, must be stressed for all learners, not just those who are in poverty.
Utica GEAR UP is a program that helps close to 750 Utica students and those learners are from every walk of life. Utica GEAR UP college-access professionals and their community partners offer intensive tutoring, mentoring, and counseling services to Proctor ninth graders every period of every school day, plus many evenings and weekends.
President Obama’s dream is do-able locally with devoted Utica City School District teachers, support staff, and administrators; Utica GEAR UP; and support from Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, and New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer.
We agree with the president, who said, “The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together, if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today, but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach.”
Linda Tettamant is the Utica GEAR UP coordinator at MVCC in Utica. She is a former editor of the Clinton Courier and lives in Clark Mills.