NJIT awarded $1.1M to increase access for low-income, 1st-gen college students

New Jersey Institute of Technology, which has long made it a priority to be accessible to those from underserved communities — particularly in Newark — is getting help from the federal government to do just that.

On Monday, the school announced it has been awarded three Upward Bound grants by the U.S. Department of Education totaling $1,168,939 that will help pave the way for hundreds of Newark high school students to pursue a college degree.

Upward Bound is one of seven federal TRIO programs created by the Higher Education Act of 1965 that fund and support higher education opportunities for students from low-income families, as well as those from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree.

The new awards bolster the TRIO Upward Bound Program at NJIT’s Center for Pre-College Programs, which has served the city’s residents on campus for nearly 30 years. The grants will continue funding for intensive college prep training at NJIT for nearly 250 additional students attending high schools across Newark over the next five years, starting this fall.

Intervention programs such as Upward Bound have been more recently joined by the university’s Math Success Initiative and Forensic Science Initiative, contributing to NJIT ranking No. 1 nationally by Forbes for the upward economic mobility of its lowest-income students.

Jacqueline Cusack, executive director of NJIT’s CPCP, which supports education programs for more than 4,000 K-12 students, educators and parents each year, said the programs have great impact.

“TRIO programs are great investments in our students that yield benefits well beyond the academic domain,” she said. “Through engagement in special events such as college tours, guest speaker presentations, coaching and job shadowing activities, our students’ self-efficacy and sense of purpose are strengthened, which combine to make them better prepared to contribute to our global society.”

Campus-based Upward Bound programs offer students instruction in literature, composition, mathematics, science and foreign language during the school year and the summer. Upward Bound also provides intensive mentoring and support for students as they prepare for college entrance exams and tackle admission applications, financial aid and scholarship forms.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 86% of Upward Bound participants enroll in postsecondary institutions immediately following high school graduation. In fiscal 2021, more than 70,000 students enrolled in 966 Upward Bound TRIO projects in the U.S.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D- 10th Dist.), a champion of these programs, was thrilled to hear the news.

“For 30 years, the assistance and resources NJIT has provided through this TRIO program has helped local students get into college and graduate with degrees in their chosen field,” he said. “In particular, I know the university’s Upward Bound English Language Learners program will use bilingual staff and instructors to guide and mentor many first-generation students from Newark. It is an exceptional program, and I will continue to work to secure more federal funding for it in the future.”