Thousands of Fresno high school and college students benefit from federal programs that could be downsized or eliminated under President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.
The budget, unveiled last week, protects Pell Grants – the primary source of federal funding for low-income students – but proposes cuts to TRIO programs, which help disadvantaged students and those who are the first in their families to attend college.
At Fresno State, more than 60 percent of its 24,000 students come from low-income families, and nearly 70 percent are first-generation students.
Fresno State’s Upward Bound program – a TRIO program aimed at first-generation students – encourages about 150 area high school students each year to attend college, helping them with applications and taking them on campus tours.
“It’s definitely scary. If this does happen, how are we going to survive and still provide the caliber of services that we try to give?” said Bernardo Reynoso, director of the program.
It’s disheartening that they don’t think we’re as effective as we are, or maybe it’s that our population isn’t as important.
Fresno State Upward Bound Director Bernardo Reynoso
Reynoso will head to Washington, D.C. this week to urge Congress to keep TRIO programs funded. He worries that without it, more Fresno schoolchildren will fall through the cracks – pointing out that only about half of Fresno Unified graduates complete the requirements needed to attend college.
“It’s disheartening that they don’t think we’re as effective as we are, or maybe it’s that our population isn’t as important,” he said. “I’m going to ask them to keep us. A lot of these kids in Fresno come from hardworking, humble, low-income families, but their parents can’t give them this advice. So we’re here to give it to them, and empower them so they have the right tools to be successful.”
Frances Wilson, a senior at Fresno State, is the first in her family to attend college.
Both of her parents were drug addicts who didn’t finish high school. She grew up in and out of the foster care system in Hanford. When asked how she did it, Wilson points to programs like Upward Bound.
“I had a lot of mentors – that’s who gave me the guidance,” Wilson said. “They took us in, helped us to apply for financial aid. I wouldn’t have even known what a scholarship was.”
Fresno State serves hundreds of students in other TRIO programs, too.
Awarded to Fresno State students in SEOG grants, which would be eliminated under Trump’s budget
More than 1,000 high school students across the central San Joaquin Valley are part of an Educational Talent Search Program, which also provides help with the college application process. More than 1,300 people participate in the Educational Opportunity Center, which helps qualified adults obtain a degree.
Gear Up, a program similar to Upward Bound, would be cut entirely. It has programs in Parlier, Raisin City and Caruthers schools.
Trump’s plan would also eliminate federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, an assistance program designated for college students with the greatest need. Last year, 3,000 students at Fresno State received a SEOG grant for the fall and spring semesters, totaling to $610,000.
Work-study programs are also in danger under the budget plan: 200 students at Fresno State benefited from those last year during the fall and spring semesters, receiving a total of $780,000.
Hundreds of thousands of CSU students depend on these programs to help them pursue their higher education goals.
Mike Uhlenkamp, California State University Chancellor’s Office.
Alex Gallo, who is active in Fresno State student government and is a first-generation student, said the university’s outreach to low-income students is part of its identity. She depends entirely on grants and scholarships.
“When you’re like me, you don’t really have a road map. You have to figure out everyone from scratch,” Gallo said. “Fresno State is so supportive. In this atmosphere, they are constantly seeking out students to tell them about their resources. I really don’t know what it would be like if they cut these programs.”
Fresno State deferred questions about the federal budget to Mike Uhlenkamp, director of public affairs for the California State University Chancellor’s Office.
“Hundreds of thousands of CSU students depend on these programs to help them pursue their higher education goals,” Uhlenkamp said. “With that said, this is the beginning of what will be a long and complex budget process, and we will continue to advocate to the administration and Congress that increasing rather than decreasing investment in students and education programs is the better path to take.”