A failure to double-check the rules will cost colleges and universities around $10 million, and thousands of low-income students tutoring and mentoring opportunities.
The Upward Bound program, a grant offered by the U.S. Department of Education, is designed to help high school students from low-income families and families where neither parent has a college degree, with the goal of helping them reach college, according to its website. In the fiscal year 2015, the program received more than $263 million in funding.
Bids for the grant are underway for the fiscal year 2018 are under way, but already 40 schools have been rejected, and roughly 30 of them lost out because of minor formatting errors on their applications, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
As a result, the Chronicle, reports, at least 2,400 underprivileged high school students will lose out on access to tutoring and mentoring programs the colleges provided with their grant money. According to The Missoulian, these rejections affect five percent of the total applicants by Education Department estimates.
“The level of strictness that the department is imposing is totally mind-blowing,” Kimberly A. Jones, vice president of the Council for Opportunity in Education, told the Chronicle.
According to The Missoulian, these rejections will halt all funding for the affected schools for the next five years. The Chronicle, using incomplete numbers provided by some schools, estimated the total financial loss will be at least $10 million, and possibly much more.
When reached for comment, the Education Department said it was following rules implemented by the Obama administration, and issued a statement to The Missoulian.
“This will not happen again," the statement read. "(Education Secretary Betsy DeVos) shares in the frustration of those rejected for not following formatting guidelines and has issued a new Department-wide policy that program offices may not reject grant applications based on simple formatting issues.”
Among the errors cited for the rejections: some schools included more than three lines per vertical inch, like the New Jersey Institute of Technology, while others used the wrong font, like Delaware Technical Community College.
Some, like Michigan State, were rejected for more serious mistakes, like missing a section in the 65-page application or having inconsistent budget numbers, per The State News. However, these colleges are protesting as well because there appears to be no appeals process for them to clarify their errors.
Meanwhile, multiple members of Congress that represent colleges that were rejected, have sent letters to DeVos requesting clarification or voicing displeasure. There has been no response, per the Chronicle.