WASHINGTON, D.C. — A minor, unintentional line-spacing problem in the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s application for the Upward Bound Grant Program could prevent 960 disadvantaged high school students from accessing funding they need to attend college, the state’s congressional delegation said Friday in a news release.

Upon learning that UMPI was not permitted to correct the application, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Friday to express their concern that the U.S. Department of Education department had refused to review UMPI’s application for two grants under the fiscal year 2017 Upward Bound Program competition because of the line-spacing issue.

The line-spacing error — which involves text that is 1.5 line spaced instead of double spaced, as was requested in the notice for applications — appeared in two information graphics on two of the application’s 65 pages, the delegation said.
“These info-graphics are intended to help the reader review the application efficiently and more easily,” the delegation wrote. “ … Were they removed, or were UMPI permitted to adjust the line spacing on these two pages, the application would easily warrant the department’s review.

“Yet unbelievably, the department refuses to review UMPI’s application and has provided no opportunity for UMPI to correct this trivial mistake,” delegation members said.

“To deny UMPI’s application a reading because two figures do not meet an arbitrary typographical format ignores the spirit of the Upward Bound Program, is antithetical to congressional intent and would seriously jeopardize the future success of hundreds of students in Maine,” the delegation stated.

According to the Maine lawmakers, the error “was so insignificant that UMPI could not immediately identify it and had to seek additional guidance.

“Now, the department’s inflexible and bureaucratic decision could result in the elimination of a long-standing, successful and greatly needed program on the basis of a non-substantive error before the application is even read,” members said.

“We strongly urge the department to apply some common sense to the Upward Bound Program competition and read and score UMPI’s applications,” the delegation concluded.

The Upward Bound Program at UMPI serves 129 high school students across Aroostook County and has a strong and long record of success in sending local low-income, first-generation students to college. Since 1980, it has helped students with great needs access the promise of higher education.