Upward Bound began in 1965 as part of the Higher Education Act. The goal was to increase access to education for all Americans. During this time, the civil rights movement was in full swing. Congress passed many pieces of legislation focused on providing equal access in addition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination.

Upward Bound is available to students after they complete the eighth grade. Once a student is accepted, Upward Bound guides, introduces, mentors, and exposes students to post-secondary education. Currently, there are about 816 programs throughout the country each servicing between 47 and 180 students. At least two-thirds of students in each program must be low-income or first-generation college students.

Looking at the present and toward the future, one might question whether Upward Bound is still necessary or relevant. Despite 50 years of Upward Bound, continual progress toward equality for all Americans, and numerous other programs focused on education including No Child Left Behind, access to education is still an issue. In 2011, 45 percent of children under 18 were considered low income (this includes those children living in poverty). This number has increased at a faster rate than the overall number of children. For low-income children, only 31 percent have a family member who has at least some college, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty’s Basic Facts About Low Income Children. Additionally, there are first-generational students whose families are not considered low income.

While Upward Bound has identified a need and successfully contributed to making education accessible, there is still work to be done. The lack of access to education for all in this country threatens the prosperity of the individual, the family and the community as well as this country’s standing as a world power. If the United States desires to regain its status as one of the most educated societies in the world, then access to education must continue to be a priority. Educating all the individuals in a society offers the best formula for success as a whole nation. So, as we reflect on the past 50 years, consider what we can do to truly make education accessible and adequate for all who desire it in this country.