Upward Bound 50th Anniversary

Upward Bound 50th Anniversary
For the Press

What is Upward Bound?

Upward Bound is a national program that more than doubles the chances of low-income, first-generation students graduating from college so they can escape poverty and enter the middle class. It has provided millions of Americans with academic support and coaching to achieve the dream of attending college and continues to do so in nearly 1,000 rural and urban U.S. communities.

Whom Does Upward Bound Serve?

As mandated by Congress, two-thirds of Upward Bound students served must come from families with incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level and in which neither parent graduated from college. Veterans Upward Bound serves veterans who may have graduated high school but have delayed pursuing post-secondary education.

Where and When Did Upward Bound Start?

Sargent Shriver and Lyndon B. Johnson
Upward Bound began as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty in 1964. The Office of Economic Opportunity that year developed Upward Bound as an experimental program to help low-income, first-generation students get a college education. In 1965, 17 Upward Bound programs (see locations below) enrolled 2,061 participants.

Upward Bound was one of the first of several federal college-access programs known as “TRIO” — so named because there were, at the time, three such federal programs for low-income students — Upward Bound, Student Support Services, and Talent Search. Today there are eight TRIO programs. For more information about TRIO, please click here.

How Does it Work?

Upward Bound partners colleges with challenged and under-resourced high schools to expose students to college and prepare them for the challenge of higher education. Students between the ages of 13 and 18 receive instruction in college readiness, literature, composition, mathematics, and science on college campuses, after school, on Saturdays and during the summer.

Where is Upward Bound Located?

There are Upward Bound projects in all 50 states, including Washington, D.C., the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Guam, and Puerto Rico. Except for Rhode Island which has one program, all other states have two or more. For a complete list of programs by state, please click here Document is available for download (.xls).

Who Are Upward Bound Students?

When Koreco Wilkins started high school in inner-city Detroit, he didn’t know anyone who was going to college. Strong in math and science, he struggled with writing. His father had finished middle school and although his mother had attended some college, he had no plans to go himself.

Jessica Ferrell wanted to be a veterinarian as soon she heard there was such a profession. Growing up in a West Virginia coal-mining community, she didn’t know how to go about achieving that. She saw that men went into coal, timber, railroad, or retail jobs and women stayed home or worked entry-level nursing jobs.

Nhoua Yang’s parents were Hmong refugees from Laos who emigrated in a wave to the United States in 1986. Her father earned his G.E.D. here and her mother had never attended any school until she took ESL classes in Lansing, Michigan. When Nhoua spotted an Upward Bound brochure on a teacher’s desk, it was “like divine intervention.”

They’re typical Upward Bound kids — Americans between the ages of 13 and 18, growing up poor and handling challenges that are unique to a low-income environment. Some are homeless or live in group homes or foster homes. About 75% are minorities. They may have limited online access and, if they live in rural areas, lack transportation. The biggest challenge can be surviving day to day.

Often, their parents didn’t attend college; until their first encounter with an Upward Bound counselor, few people have asked them their aspirations.

Too often, their parents’ educational level will make it even less likely that these kids will earn a bachelor’s degree. Those whose parents do not possess a college degree are called, “first generation students.”

The results are stark: Almost five times as many students from affluent families, where parents earned college degrees, earned their Bachelors’ degrees in six years than low-income, first-generation students, according to Pell Institute data.

Upward Bound makes an impact on such statistics — and, more important, on human lives.

In Jessica, Koreco, and Nhoua’s lives, Upward Bound counselors intervened and inspired them.

Koreco is a senior at Michigan State University, studying mechanical engineering. He’s an intern at Alcoa, the aluminum company, and considering graduate school.

Jessica graduated from high school, was awarded a Presidential Scholarship, received her Bachelor of Science at Concord University, and this year received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. In June she began her new job as a veterinarian, back in her West Virginia hometown.

Nhoua was high school valedictorian and graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Health & Society with a concentration in Psychology. She works in the MSU TRIO office which helps motivate and support students from low-income backgrounds in their pursuit of higher education.

You May Already Know These Upward Bound Alumni

Angela Bassett
Angela Bassett

Academy Award Nominated Actress
Upward Bound, St. Petersburg Junior College

Bassett is an Academy Award nominated actress, most notable for her role as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It? She is an alumna of the Upward Bound program at St. Petersburg Junior College. She attended Yale University where she received her B.A. degree in African American studies in 1980 and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama in 1983.
Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing

Hall of Fame NBA Player
Upward Bound, MIT-Wellesley

The Hall of Fame Center for the New York Knicks was a member of MIT-Wellesley’s Upward Bound program before attending Georgetown University. His basketball career includes an NCAA Championship, three All-American honors, eleven NBA All-Star Game appearances, and two Olympic Gold Medals.

Jose Hernandez
Jose Hernandez

Second Hispanic Astronaut

Hernandez, a retired NASA Astronaut participated in Upward Bound while in high school at Franklin High School in Stockton, California. Hernandez went on to receive his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of the Pacific. Hernandez was part of a fourteen-day technical mission that launched on August 28, 2009.
John Quinones
John Quinones

Correspondent for ABC News, “Prime Time Live”
Upward Bound, St. Mary’s University

John Quinones, the ABC News Correspondent and host of Primetime — What Would You Do? is an alumnus of the Upward Bound program at St. Mary’s University from where he later graduated. Quinones is a seven-time Emmy Award winner.

Viola Davis
Viola Davis

Academy Award Nominated Actress
Upward Bound, Rhode Island College

Viola Davis is a graduate of the Upward Bound program at Rhode Island College and graduated from RIC in 1988. Davis is a well-known actress both on the stage and on the screen. Her role as Aibileen Clark in The Help propelled her to an Academy Award nomination.
Wil Haygood
Wil Haygood

Author and Journalist
Upward Bound, Ohio Dominican College

Wil Haygood participated in the Upward Bound program at Ohio Dominican College and graduated from Miami University in 1976. Haygood is an author and journalist most famous for his work, The Butler — A Witness to History.

Troy Polamalu
Troy Polamalu

National Football League (NFL) Player

Troy Polamalu was a member of the Upward Bound program while attending Douglas High School in Winston, Oregon. He later went on to the University of Southern California. Polamalu is eight times Pro Bowl and two times Super Bowl Champion Strong Safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hector Balderas
Hector Balderas

New Mexico State Auditor
Upward Bound, New Mexico Highlands University

Hector Balderas attended the Upward Bound program at New Mexico Highlands University from which he graduated. Balderas graduated from the New Mexico School of Law in 2001 and he currently serves as the State Auditor of New Mexico.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

Political Strategist

Donna Brazile is an alumna of Upward Bound and graduated from Louisiana State University in 1983. Brazile is a famous political strategist, author, and commentator who is the Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Kenny Leon
Kenny Leon

Director, Tony Award Nominee

Kenny Leon is an alumnus of the Upward Bound program and a graduate of Clark Atlanta University. Leon is a director most famous for his work on Broadway. His works include Driving Miss Daisy and A Streetcar Named Desire on the stage. He has also directed episodes of the show Private Practice.

Beatrice Berry
Beatrice Berry

Author, Award-Winning Lecturer
Upward Bound, University of Delaware

Beatrice Berry was a participant in Upward Bound at the University of Delaware and went on to graduate magnum cum laude from Jacksonville University. Berry is an American sociologist, author, and educator who has written multiple books and produced her own syndicated talk show.
Dr. Keith Motley
Dr. Keith Motley

Chancellor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston

Dr. Keith Motley is an alumnus of the Upward Bound program at the University of Pittsburgh. Motley is currently serving as the eighth chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Motley received his Master’s degree from Northeastern University and his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Boston College.

Dmitri Stockton
Dmitri Stockton

CEO and General Electric Asset Management President

Dmitri Stockton is an alumnus of the Upward Bound program and graduated from North Carolina Agricultural Technical State University School of Business and Economics. Stockton has been the Chief Executive Officer and President of GE Asset Management Incorporated of General Electric Company (GE) since April 2011.
Stephen Pemberton
Stephen Pemberton

Chief Diversity Officer and Divisional Vice President for Walgreens
Upward Bound, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Stephen Pemberton is an alumnus of the Upward Bound program at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Pemberton currently serves as the chief diversity officer and divisional vice president of Walgreens. His memoir, A Chance in the World — An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home, tells of his difficult path through foster care and his determined search for his family while overcoming setbacks and achieving seemingly insurmountable goals.

Gwendolyn Boyd
Gwendolyn Boyd

President of Alabama State University
Upward Bound, Alabama State

Gwendolyn Boyd is an alumna of the Upward Bound program at Alabama State and went on to become the first woman to receive a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Yale University. Boyd is currently the president of Alabama State University.
Barbara Harmon-Schamberger
Barbara Harmon-Schamberger

Upward Bound, Salem-Teikyo University

Barbara Harmon-Schamberger is currently the CEO and an Attorney at Schamberger Legal Services. She was an Upward Bound student at Salem Teikyo University. She received her B.A. from West Virginia University in 1985 and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia in 1991 where she was on the Virginia Law Review. She was the first female Rhodes Scholar from West Virginia University. Prior to 1976, women were not eligible to apply for this prestigious award.

Fast Facts

  • Since 1964 more than 2 million students have participated in Upward Bound.
  • In 1964, 17 Pilot programs were funded, 2,061 students participated.
  • In 1964, approximately 1,500 Upward Bound students graduated high school; 80% were admitted to college in 1965 and 69% graduated with a bachelor’s degree.
  • Today, 964 programs are funded with more than 80,000 students participating.
  • The likelihood of Upward Bound students going to college immediately after graduation increases by persistence in the program from 77% at two years to 93% at three or more years.
  • A student from top quartile of family income is nine times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than a student born into the bottom quartile — 73.3% compared to 8.3%.

Upward Bound Timeline

The Pilot Programs

University of the Ozarks
Clarksville, AR
Howard University
Washington, D.C.
Florida A&M University
Tallahassee, FL
Morehouse College
Atlanta, GA
Dillard University
New Orleans, LA
Independent Schools Talent Search Program
Boston, MA
Webster University
St. Louis, MO
New Mexico Highlands University
Las Vegas, NM
Columbia University
New York, NY
Le Moyne College
Syracuse, NY
New York University
New York, NY
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR
Fisk University
Nashville, TN
Tennessee State University
Nashville, TN
Texas Southern University
Houston, TX
Western Washington State University
Bellingham, WA
Ripon College
Ripon, WI

From the pilot of 17 projects funded in 1964 and started in summer 1965, five projects are still in existence — Howard University (D.C.); Dillard University (New Orleans, LA); Columbia University (New York, NY); LeMoyne College (Syracuse, NY); and Texas Southern University (Houston, TX).

Upward Bound is More Important Now Than Ever

The United States needs to boost both its academic and economic competitiveness on a global level. In order to foster and maintain a healthy economy as well as compete globally, the United States needs a strong, highly-educated, and competent workforce. To be on par with other nations, the country needs students, from all backgrounds, who are academically prepared and motivated to achieve success. Please also see the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce’s “Recovery — Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020” and the Pew Research Center’s topics on the “Value of Higher Education.”

Low-income students are being left behind. Data shows that in 2012, a student born into the top quartile of family income was about nine times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24 than was a student born into the bottom quartile — 73.3% as compared to 8.3%. In fact, every measure of academic performance is correlated with family income — high school graduation (91.5% vs. 72.4%), college continuation (88.6% vs. 61.6%), college participation (81.0% vs. 44.6%), and estimated bachelor’s degree attainment by age 24 (73.3% vs. 8.3%). (Postsecondary Education Opportunity, October 2013).

The growing achievement gap in our country is detrimental to our success as a nation. There is a tremendous gap in educational attainment between America's highest and lowest income students — despite similar talents and potential. While there are numerous talented and worthy low-income students, relatively few are represented in higher education, particularly at America's more selective four-year colleges and universities. (ACSFA 2005).

Data Supporting Impact of Upward Bound

Return on Investment

College Participation RatesEstimated Baccalaureate Degree Attainment