Howard University's summer enrichment program for gifted and talented students has run into budget problems forcing cutbacks in scholarships for needy students as well as for teachers and classroom supplies.
The program's $65,000 budget was cut nearly in half this year because of lack of donations from private sponsors, loss of federal grant funds and a greater difficulty among parents to pay the full $300 tuition before the start of classes, said Howard University professor James Williams.
Williams, who started the model Satellite Summer Enrichment Program in l979 to prove that black students could excel in technical fields such as mathematics and science, said the university "did not get the money we thought we were going to get, and that left us on the cutting edge."
This summer 130 students from second to ninth grade are spending nearly a month on Howard's campus studying courses that include physiology, creative writing and computer science. They attend for four hours every morning. A total of 84 percent of the students are from the District with the remainder coming from around the country.
Williams said that the program's monetary troubles started in mid-June when he learned that one of the project's major private donors could not provide an expected $10,000 grant.
The program's other major private contributor is still undecided on whether it will make a $2,500 grant, Williams said.
These private donations primarily paid for the project's scholarship program. Partial scholarships are awarded to needy students or to students whose parents have more than one child in the program. Without those donations, the program awarded only 43 scholarships this year, compared with 75 last year, Williams said.
More problems arose when Williams learned that 19 parents could not pay the required full tuition before classes began. Williams said he allowed those parents to pay in installments. Some have paid nothing while others have paid less than $100.
Instead of two teachers per class--a full-time public school teacher and a graduate assistant in education--most classes have one teacher because the program can no longer afford to pay the graduate assistants' summer-school tuition. In the past, these graduate students would enroll in summer school and receive college credit for helping in the satellite program, and the program would pay their tuition.
The reduction in assistants from 10 to three has made fewer opportunities for students to receive individual instruction, Williams said.
The program also has reduced allocations for classroom supplies such as anatomical charts, frogs for dissecting and dissection tools for the 82 ninth graders taking physiology--a new science course taught by medical students, Williams said.
Some parents have taken over some of the clerical work previously handled by a paid staff person, whose salary was paid by a federal grant that expired last July.
Despite the budget problems, students and parents said they like the program, which is believed to be the area's only private summer program designed specifically for gifted minority students.
Wilhelmina Jenkins said she enrolled her 6-year-old daughter in the program so she could go to school with mostly black students. The daughter, Kamilah, attends John Eaton in Cleveland Park.
John Eaton is "a very good school," Jenkins said, "but the children there are predominantly white, and I did want [Kamilah] to see a number of other black children who were interested in high achievement and high academic work."