TRIO is a set of federally-funded college opportunity programs that motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a college degree. An estimated 790,000 low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities — from sixth grade through college graduation — are served by over 2,800 programs nationally. TRIO programs provide academic tutoring, personal counseling, mentoring, financial guidance, and other supports necessary for educational access and retention. TRIO programs provide direct support services for students, and relevant training for directors and staff.
Where Did TRIO Originate?
The TRIO programs were the first national college access and retention programs to address the serious social and cultural barriers to education in America. (Previously only college financing had been on policymakers’ radar.) TRIO began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. The Educational Opportunity Act of 1964 established an experimental program known as Upward Bound. Then, in 1965, the Higher Education Act created Talent Search. Finally, another program, Special Services for Disadvantaged Students (later known as Student Support Services), was launched in 1968. Together, this “trio” of federally-funded programs encouraged access to higher education for low-income students. By 1998, the TRIO programs had become a vital pipeline to opportunity, serving traditional students, displaced workers, and veterans. The original three programs had grown to nine, adding Educational Opportunity Centers and Veterans Upward Bound in 1972, Training Program for Federal TRIO programs in 1976, the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program in 1986, Upward Bound Math/Science in 1990, and the TRIO Dissemination Partnership in 1998.
Who Is Served
As mandated by Congress, two-thirds of the students served must come from families with incomes at 150% or less of the federal poverty level and in which neither parent graduated from college. More than 2,800 TRIO projects currently serve close to 790,000 low-income Americans. Many programs serve students in grades six through 12. Thirty-five percent of TRIO students are Whites, 35% are African-Americans, 19% are Hispanics, 4% are Native Americans, 3% are Asian-Americans, and 4% are listed as “Other,” including multiracial students. More than 7,000 students with disabilities and approximately 6,000 U.S. veterans are currentlyenrolled in the TRIO programs as well.
How It Works
More than 1,000 colleges, universities, community colleges, and agencies now offer TRIO Programs in America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. TRIO funds are distributed to institutions through competitive grants.
Why Are TRIO Programs Important?
The United States needs to boost both its academic and economic competitiveness globally. In order to foster and maintain a healthy economy as well as compete globally, the United States needs a strong, highly-educated, and competent workforce. To be on par with other nations, the country needs students, no matter their background, who are academically prepared and motivated to achieve success.
Low-income students are being left behind. Only 38% of low-income high school seniors go straight to college as compared to 81% of their peers in the highest income quartile. Then, once enrolled in college, low-income students earn bachelor’s degrees at a rate that is less than half of that of their high-income peers — 21% as compared with 45%.
The growing achievement gap in our country is detrimental to our success as a nation. There is a tremendous gap in educational attainment between America’s highest and lowest income students — despite similar talents and potential. While there are numerous talented and worthy low-income students, relatively few are represented in higher education, particularly at America’s more selective four-year colleges and universities. While nearly 67% of high-income, highly-qualified students enroll in four-year colleges, only 47% of low-income, highly-qualified students enroll. Even more startling, 77% of the least-qualified, high-income students go on to college, while roughly the same proportion of the most-qualified low-income students that go on to college. (ACSFA 2005).
Educational Opportunity Centers
Educational Opportunity Centers located throughout the country primarily serve displaced or underemployed workers from families. These Centers help individuals to choose a college and a suitable financial aid program. There are 165 Educational Opportunity Centers in America serving more than 225,000 individuals. Recent analysis of performance data of the Educational Opportunity Centers found that more than half (57.6%) of “college-ready” students enrolled in institutions of higher learning and 71% of eligible EOC participants (high school seniors, postsecondary dropouts, etc.) applied to college.
Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement
The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement program is designed to encourage low-income students and minority undergraduates to consider careers in college teaching as well as prepare for doctoral study. Students who participate in this program are provided with research opportunities and faculty mentors. This program was named in honor of the astronaut who died in the 1986 space-shuttle explosion. Currently, there are 151 projects, serving more than 4,300 students. According to recent performance data, in 2013-14, 69% of McNair participants who graduated in 2010-11 were enrolled in graduate school; meanwhile, 83% of students who first enrolled in graduate school in 2012-2013 persisted in their studies.
Student Support Services
Student Support Services projects work to enable low-income students to stay in college until they earn their baccalaureate degrees. Participants, who include disabled college students, receive tutoring, counseling and remedial instruction. More than 203,000 students are now being served by 1,071 Student Support Service programs at colleges and universities nationwide. Recent studies of Student Support Services found that program participation resulted in statistically significant higher rates of student retention and transfer, improved grade point averages, and credit accumulation. Program participants also bested their similarly situated peers in degree completion at both two-year colleges (41% vs. 28%) and four-year colleges (48% vs. 40%).
Talent Search projects serve young people in grades six through 12. In addition to counseling, participants receive information about college admissions requirements, scholarships and various student financial aid programs. This early intervention program helps youth from low-income families to better understand their educational opportunities and options. More than 316,000 students are enrolled in 481 Talent Search TRIO projects. According to the more recent data collected by the U.S. Department of Education, 80% of Talent Search participants enrolled in postsecondary institutions immediately following high school graduation.
Upward Bound (UB) is an intensive intervention program that prepares students for higher education through various enrichment courses. Campus-based UB programs provide students instruction in literature, composition, mathematics, science, and foreign language during the school year and the summer. UB also provides intensive mentoring and support for students as they prepare for college entrance exams and tackle admission applications, financial aid, and scholarship forms. Recent analysis from the U.S. Department of Education showed that 86 percent of Upward Bound students in the 2013–14 high school graduation cohort enrolled immediately in college following high school graduation.
Upward Bound Math-Science
Using a similar model to Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science provides students with a rigorous math and science curriculum in high school to encourage and enable them to successfully major in critically important science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines in college. Indeed, 70% of Upward Bound Math-Science programs have postsecondary enrollments of 80% or higher.
Veterans Upward Bound
The Veterans Upward Bound program provides intensive basic skills development and short-term remedial courses for military veterans to helps them successfully transition to postsecondary education. Veterans learn how to secure support from available resources such as the Veterans Administration, veterans associations, and various state and local agencies that serve veterans. According to the National Association of Veterans Upward Bound Program Personnel, in 2010-2011, more than 60% of recent program participants were enrolled in postsecondary education programs.