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This Formatting Problem May Keep Thousands of Low-Income Kids From College
UPDATE: On April 27, 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a memo forbidding the Department of Education from rejecting Upward Bound grant applications over formatting issues.
“Program offices may suggest page limits and formatting standards (such as font size, line spacing, and the like) but may not use ignoring these suggestions as a basis to reject grant applications,” reads the memo.
That’s great news for the more than 2,300 students affected by the DoE’s earlier decision that resulted in withholding over $10 million in grant money.
Thousands of high school students around the country may not be able to attend college when they graduate and you aren’t even going to believe the reason why.
The U.S. Department of Education has denied funding to a large swath of schools that applied for an Upward Bound grant to help underserved students pursue higher education.
The reason? Wait for it…
All 65 pages of the grant applications weren’t double spaced.
That’s right, folks. A minor formatting error that even most college professors would let slide is preventing kids from going to college.
The Upward Bound Program Is the Bee’s Knees
Upward Bound is a DOE grant program that helps financially-strapped high schoolers access college prep courses and funding to attend college.
It’s been kicking around since 1964 and serves first-time college-bound students from low-income families.
Without this grant money, many students — particularly in poor and rural communities — simply won’t make it into college.
Lighten Up, Department of Education
For the first time in the program’s history, the DOE required text in the Upward Bound grant application, including text on charts and graphs, to be double spaced.
Here’s what’s happening around the country at schools that overlooked this minor requirement.
- Around 960 disadvantaged high school students may not receive college funding because the University of Maine at Presque Isle submitted two infographics with 1.5 line spacing. (Maine’s lawmakers are fighting back.)
- University of Montana will shut down its entire college-prep program May 31 unless the DOE reinstates the funding it pulled over the double-spacing issue.
- Over 100 low-income high school students will be dismissed from a college prep program at Wittenberg University because the budget section of its application violated the spacing rule of “no more than three lines per vertical inch.”
All told, more than $10 million is being withheld from more than 2,300 students at around 40 colleges — over grant submission errors that mostly involve double spacing issues.
The DOE Shouldn’t Be Casting Stones
It’s perfectly acceptable to hold schools to high standards when doling out money, but the agency holding the purse strings should take a long look in the mirror before drawing any hard lines in the sand over minor issues.
“On Feb. 12, the department's official Twitter quoted the famous black American scholar W.E.B. DuBois, but misspelled his name as DeBois,” notes Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry. “After Twitter users mocked the Department of Education for misspelling the name of such a prominent scholar and leader, the Department of Education tweeted, ‘Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.’”
If the DOE wants to be such sticklers about formatting, its own Upward Bound Program web site, which hasn’t been updated since 2016, could use a little line spacing help of its own.
Your Turn: Do you know anyone affected the DOE’s fussiness over the Upward Bound Grant application process?
Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She believes the DOE should offer all the students affected by the agency’s ruling its “deepest apologizes.”