The Upward Bound program emerged from legislation enacted by the U.S. Congress as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as a response to the growing racial and economic disparity among graduates of higher education. It is a federal program designed to help economically disadvantaged students complete high school and help prepare them to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. It is the oldest and largest of the Federal TRIO programs, all of which share the objective of helping disadvantaged students achieve success at the postsecondary level.
The genesis of the Upward Bound program on the University of South Florida campus began in June 1966. Dr. Mary Jo McCormick was appointed as the first director of the program. After serving three years as director, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and resigned from her position. The University thereafter conducted a national search for a notable professional to work with low income and first generation, college students.
Dr. Richard S. Pride, Sr., then principal of Blake High School in Tampa with a long and distinguished career in the field of education, was selected in February 1969 to serve as the director. He was appointed as an associate professor in the Educational Leadership Department of the College of Education and directed the Upward Bound program for more than twenty-five years. His greatest joy and accomplishment was the opportunity to work through the students of the program to further their education. Because of Dr. Pride’s genuine commitment to assist program participants, he gained the title and respect of the students as “Papa Pride.” During Dr. Pride’s tenure, more than two thousand low income and first generation college students were admitted to a college or university. The University of South Florida awarded him with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1994. Dr. Pride retired in February 1996 and the Hillsborough County School Board named Pride Elementary School in his honor in August 2000.
In February 1996, USF appointed Robert Davis as the successor to Dr. Pride. Mr. Davis, an alumnus of the USF Upward Bound program, was previously a guidance counselor and an administrator in the Hillsborough County School District, continues to serve as director of the program.
There are currently 566 Upward Bound projects serving about 42,000 students across the United States. The University of South Florida’s Upward Bound program is one of the largest in the nation. The USF program serves 150 students from the local high schools of the surrounding counties of Hillsborough, Polk, and Manatee. At least two- thirds of the participants must be from households that have low income (under 150% of the poverty level) and in which neither parent has graduated from college. The remaining students must satisfy both criteria, which in practice is about 80 percent of Upward Bound applicants.
The USF Upward Bound program offers extensive academic instruction as well as counseling, mentoring, and other support services. Students must meet throughout the school year and participate in an intensive six-week summer residential program. About 90% of students enter Upward Bound while in the 9th or 10th grade and remain with the program through their high school graduation. The annual average cost per participant is about $4,200.
Upward Bound is responsible for tracking all program participants. Since the genesis of the Upward Bound program at the University of South Florida, more than 3,000 students have been admitted as participants. Of this number, 100% of these students have received a high school diploma. Ninety-eight percent of program participants have been admitted to a college, university, or vocational program awarding at least an associate’s degree. Ninety-three percent of these students actually enrolled in a college or university postsecondary program the fall term following their high school graduation. Current tracking data (Blumens, FETPIP) indicates that 78% of students admitted to Upward Bound have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. This data does not include those students that joined the military and later earned a college degree. Results reported here are based on information collected up to six years after the student has enrolled in a postsecondary institution.
The high rate of success of the Upward Bound Program was due in part to the College Reach-Out Program which worked along with Upward Bound. Dr. Pride wrote a grant proposal for funding from the College Reach-Out Program which was intended for the community colleges of Florida. He went to Tallahassee and persuaded state educational officials to fund the first CROP project at a university at USF. CROP, which is much like Upward Bound, but is funded by the state of Florida, continues to function at USF under the direction of Robert Davis.
During the USF Upward Bound program’s forty year history, it has been continually funded and supported by the USF College of Education and is recognized nationally as a model for other state and federal funded programs. As stated so often by Upward Bound alumni, “I could have never done it without the assistance of the program.”