CollegeBound has gotten itself into a unusual bind. The four-year-old organization, which helps graduates of Baltimore City public high schools attend college, has been so successful that the demand for its financial assistance has outstripped its meager resources.
The program had budgeted $75,000 to cover grants for the coming school year. But about two dozen extra students have qualified. If these inner-city students are to attend classes this fall, they need some immediate help. CollegeBound is hoping the community will contribute the additional $75,000 so these students can enroll in college.
Established by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, the Greater Baltimore Committee and Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development, this program has a simple mission: increase the number of city students who go to college.
CollegeBound's seven counselors spend time in all city high schools encouraging students to think about college. They encourage the youngsters to enroll in the prerequisite courses, take the Scholastic Aptitude Test and apply for financial aid. It also helps the students negotiate through the increasingly complex financial-aid maze.
By providing "last dollar" grants, CollegeBound also ensures that no city student is denied a college education because he or she does not have the money. The grants are designed to cover the shortfall between the financial aid package provided by the college and the cost of tuition, fees, books and board. The average grant is about $900.
CollegeBound has helped 2,500 city students apply to college. It is providing grants to about 225 students. About 75 percent of them are still in college. Tiffany Lucas, the first member of her family to attend college, is a good example. She is an honors graduate from Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School and comes from a very poor family. Her father is in prison, her mother is disabled and one of her four sisters had a baby at age 13. Tiffany is now attending University of Maryland College Park, thanks to a $600 grant.
Each of the dollars used to help a city student apply to school or finance a college education is money that is well spent. These students will improve our community by lifting themselves out the cycle of poverty. They also are living testament that people, if given the opportunity and resources, can achieve the American dream of success.