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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson January 7, 2010

No program yet, but other initiatives get budget boost

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said his administration "will provide $25 million annually in matching funds for states to develop Early Assessment Programs. These funds will also promote state efforts to raise awareness about the availability of federal and state financial aid programs."

In California, for instance, such a program uses tests designed by the state Department of Education and the California State University system. The idea is to gauge whether students are ready for entry-level work on Cal State campuses. If they are, they can skip placement tests that they would otherwise have to take. If they aren't, they still have a year to get ready for the placement tests.

In Promise 273, we reported that searches using Google, and Nexis failed to turn up any evidence that the administration is taking tangible steps on creating an Early Assessment Plan. Education advocates also told us they were not aware of any activity in this regard.

Because of that, we rated Promise 273 Stalled, and we would classify the first part of Promise 274 -- providing $25 million annually in matching funds -- as Stalled, as well.

However, we think it's worth noting that the administration has done a few things to advance the second part of Promise 274 -- "to promote state efforts to raise awareness about the availability of federal and state financial aid programs."

At least three programs run by the Education Department help low-income students attend college, and two of them received funding increases in the department's 2010 appropriations bill.

-- The Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership, or LEAP, program, which "provides grants to states to assist them in providing need-based grants and community service work-study assistance to eligible post-secondary students." The program received almost $64 million in fiscal year 2009; the president requested the same amount in fiscal year 2010, and Congress provided it. (The program was formerly known as the State Student Incentive Grant Program.)

-- A cluster of programs known collectively as TRIO, which received a $5 million bump between 2009 and 2010, from $848 million to $853 million. This money funds such projects as Educational Opportunity Centers, which provides counseling and information on college admissions, including financial aid options. Other programs under TRIO include Upward Bound, which aids the college preparedness of low-income students and those whose parents did not attend college.

-- The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, which "provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools." The program received $313 million in fiscal year 2009 and was funded at $323 million for fiscal 2010, an increase of $10 million.

That all adds up to an increase of $15 million for 2010 -- a new allocation that, for the purpose of this promise, helps balance the apparent failure to establish a federal Early Assessment Program. If the administration does go on to create an Early Assessment Program, we'll change our call, but for now we'll rate this promise a Compromise.

Our Sources

Education Department, Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership home page, accessed Jan. 6, 2010

Education Department, TRIO programs home page, accessed Jan. 6, 2010

Education Department, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs home page, accessed Jan. 6, 2010

Education Week, "Beyond a Focus on Graduation; Postsecondary Work Seen as Key to Success," June 11, 2009

Interview with Mollie Benz Flounlacker, assistant vice president for federal relations at the Association of American Universities, Jan 6, 2010

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