Mistakes made in an application for a federal Upward Bound grant could cost Triton College $1 million over the next four years. That funding loss may in turn lead to the termination of the program, operated by the college for the past two decades to prepare at-risk high school students for college life.

The problem comes in the wake of parental criticism last year of the college for allowing the Upward Bound program to operate without a counselor for nearly the entire 2005-06 school year. Penny Wolford, of Broadview, who serves on the program’s Parent Advisory Committee, said at last week’s Triton Board of Trustees meeting that the program was submitted incorrectly by the Triton administration. The key mistake, she said, was submitting the application on paper, rather than electronically, as required.

“I just found out Friday it was not funded because we submitted it incorrectly. [The federal government] would not even consider it,” said Wolford. “When administrators at this college do not follow procedures to make sure this program was submitted properly, they’ve done these children an injustice.”

Wolford tearfully implored the board to keep the program. “I’m asking you guys, if you could find it in your hearts, to find funding to continue this program.”

Board Chairman Mark Stephens said he intended to look into the situation, saying, “The board is greatly dismayed at the failure to procure the funds through federal funding.” He went on to call the issue “a personnel matter” that would be addressed in closed session.

“We’re going to do everything to find out why this happened,” Stephens concluded.

Triton President Patricia Granados did not return phone calls asking for comment. According to a phone answering message, Upward Bound Program Director Bertha Zagore was out of the office last week and this week.

Wolford said she spoke with Granados last week and was told the administration is working “with the new dean” on the problem.

Triton administrators have commented on the issue at earlier board meetings, however. When Wolford told the board of trustees in November that she was concerned about the grant application not being submitted electronically despite grant guidelines requiring it, Marge Stabile, the vice president for institutional advancement replied, according to board minutes, “that the Grants Office was not aware of the requirement to file electronically … .”

At that time Wolford also expressed her concern that a secretary in the Upward Bound program had been allowed to transfer to another department just two weeks prior to the long grant application being due. In her stead, Wolford said, numerous Upward Bound parents pooled their resources and paid someone $1,200 to type the grant out and submit it on paper. The board indicated months ago that the parents would be reimbursed for the expense, but has not yet done so, according to Wolford.

Wolford said the program is still in need of clerical help.

“They never replaced her,” Wolford said of the secretary.

Recently elected Triton Trustee Thomas Gary said Monday that he wasn’t aware of any developments regarding the Upward Bound program’s status in the past week. Gary wouldn’t talk about what occurred in executive session last week, but said, “I know I can say very confidently that the institution from top to bottom is very concerned about this.”

CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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