Department of Education Awards UW-Green Bay $3.3 million in funding to continue programs for first-generation students

Assures continuation of programs for five years to assist low-income, college-bound students

GREEN BAY — The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s TRIO programs — Upward Bound (UB) and the Regional Center for Math and Science (RCMS) — have been renewed and will receive $1.7 million in funding for the Upward Bound and $1.6 million in funding for the RCMS program from the Department of Education Office of Federal TRIO Programs. This grant assures the two programs’ continuation for the next five years, UB through 2022 and RCMS through 2023. Statistics demonstrate the impact these programs have on students who participate in them at UW-Green Bay:

-76% of UW-Green Bay Upward Bound participants go to college (versus 63% nationally).
-93% of UW-Green Bay RCMS participants attend college (versus 63% nationally).
-68% of those RCMS participants who go to college graduate with majors in STEM fields (versus 17% nationally).

Both programs were introduced to aid first-generation low-income families. UW-Green Bay Upward Bound serves high school students from the Green Bay Area Public Schools, and the Regional Center for Math and Science program serves students from 20 high schools throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. The Upward Bound Math/Science Program was established in 1990 to address the need for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) instruction. There are 810 Upward Bound programs in the nation and 147 RCMS programs, UW-Green Bay is proud to host both.

‘Low-income, first-generation know no town or city limits’

“Low-income, first-generation circumstances know no town or city limits,” UW-Green Bay TRIO program director, Michael Casbourne states. “It could be a farm family in Tigerton or a family living in the midst of industrial Detroit. We want any and all of them to embrace this opportunity to break away from their circumstances. Some of the most touted UW-Green Bay graduates have come from the smallest, most rural high schools, gone through Upward Bound or RCMS, went to college, graduated, and gone on to do amazing things.” UW-Green Bay TRIO alumni are teaching ophthalmology at the Medical College of Wisconsin Eye Institute, doing research at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and working as a NASA project manager. They are entrepreneurs, chiropractors, nurses, pharmacists, and teachers.

Upward Bound and RCMS offer a six-week residential pre-college program each summer and academic year programming from the time of enrollment until graduation. Students live on campus, take classes tailored to their needs and interests, and experience college life while gaining an understanding of the responsibility and effort it takes to succeed. Forty-nine instructors, faculty, counselors, residence hall assistants, graduate and administrative staff work side-by-side with these students to teach them, prepare them, and support them. During the school year, students have access to tutoring and academic counseling to keep them on track for graduation and a future in a post-secondary institution.

Program counteracts barriers that keep talented students out of college

“Upward Bound and RCMS exist to counteract the barriers that keep talented students, from low-income families, out of college,” Casbourne. These include lack of financial resources, not understanding the paperwork needed for admission into college, parents who are unable to relate to the college experience, low self-esteem, and lack of resources, to name a few. Upward Bound and RCMS eliminate those barriers and help the participants navigate college academically and socially. “The objective is to help students understand and believe that they indeed belong in college, they deserve to be there, and they can succeed there,” Casbourne says.

Students pay no fees. Classes, housing, meals, transportation, faculty, staff, programs, group outings, and more, are all covered by the grant.

“We definitely help stimulate the Green Bay economy,” Casbourne says. “Bowling alleys, the Weidner Center, Bullfrogs and Gamblers games, Door Shakespeare, museums and art fairs, festivals…we want to give these kids varying experiences. Green Bay and surrounding communities offer ample unique opportunities for learning and socializing, and we participate in as many as we can. Plus, we’re a huge source of revenue for the summer UW-Green Bay housing and food service areas.”

The programs also employ local university professors and teachers. “We have the most amazing staff,” Casbourne says. “This is not compulsory education. Students really want to participate and succeed. The student to teacher ratios are much lower, more like 10 or 12 to one versus 25 or 26 to one. It gives our teachers a chance to build a different relationship with students, and that refreshes and recharges them.”

Biology student April Thao will be graduating in Fall 2018 with an emphasis in microbiology and a minor in chemistry. Her plans are to attend a pharmaceutical school. She credits UW-Green Bay RCMS.

“RCMS made the impossible possible. I was able to find my passion and pursue it.” Thao already gives back to the program and the students in it, too. “I’m a lab assistant and I’m a teaching assistant for RCMS. This program has meant so much to me; I want to be there for others in it. This is like my family, my second home.”

This is an investment in past success

The grant is not automatic every award cycle. It has to be reapplied for, and those in competition for the funds must meet stringent requirements to be considered. Michael Casbourne is proud to say the continued success of his programs is a premeditator for renewal.

“We’re really good at what we do,” he says. “We have a proven model, a great staff…we set high objectives and meet them, and most importantly, we do right by the kids.” During the renewal process, established programs are given “proven experience points” based on outcomes. UW-Green Bay’s program scored a 14 out of 15 this last cycle. “We missed a point because I set high objectives for our students. They were so close, but just missed it,” he says with a smile.

2.5% increase will reinstate a work-study program, provide real-world opportunities

Historically, grant renewal dollars have been relatively consistent. This latest renewal, however, showed an increase of nearly 2.5%. The total amount for RCMS is $318,000 each year for five years and for UB it is $338,953. Casbourne plans on using the increase to reinstate a community work-study program for Upward Bound so students can begin working in their areas of interest and earn money for college. For the RCMS program, he intends on establishing more resources for ACT/SAT preparation to help students improve their scores.

It is clear what this grant renewal means for the UW-Green Bay Upward Bound and RCMS programs: at least five more years of assisting low-income, first generation students prepare for success in high school and college. According to Yorchei Xiong, a UW-Green Bay computer science major, it extends way beyond just being academically prepared for college. “Academically, socially, personally…it taught me how to manage my time, take responsibility, and be an adult. I was accepted as who I was…timid and unsure at first…but now I’m so much more self-confident, and comfortable with myself and who I am as a person. I’m excited for the future…for my future.”

Eighty students at a time are allowed in each of the two programs. To qualify for either program, a student must be enrolled at a target school (or an eighth grader at a feeder school), not have finished their junior year of high school, and be at or below the federally determined low-income level, and/or be a potential first-generation student. Two-thirds of the participants within the program must meet both criteria. A student must also have at least a 2.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale), and have a goal of entering a postsecondary institution.

About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate and graduate programs to 7,158 students. The University transforms lives and communities through exceptional and award-winning teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities and a problem-solving approach to education. For more information, visit


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