Local view: Support for TRiO is an investment in our community and our futureOur country’s president and many members of Congress continue to stress the importance of an educated America, setting the goal to be No. 1 in the world in higher education degree attainment by 2020.
By: Susan Kurth, Duluth News Tribune
Our country’s president and many members of Congress continue to stress the importance of an educated America, setting the goal to be No. 1 in the world in higher education degree attainment by 2020.
TRiO programs are helping achieve that goal.
TRiO grants have been funded through the federal Department of Education for almost 50 years, with a long history of Turning Roadblocks into Opportunities (“TRiO”) for disadvantaged students. TRiO programs serve students who have limited income, are in the first generation of their families to attend college, have a disability, would like to re-enter the education system and/or are underrepresented.
Every year, TRiO programs in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District serve more than 3,500 students (the second-largest population of TRiO students in any district in the state), helping them to succeed in school, apply for financial aid, learn about careers and make a plan for college.
TRiO teaches how to succeed in high school and pursue college dreams.
TRiO programs serve students in grades 6 through 12 (via Educational Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math/Science); in college (via Student Support Services); and students pursuing graduate degrees (via the McNair Scholars Program). Students in TRiO programs graduate from high school at a higher rate than the national average and have higher retention and graduation rates from college than their counterparts who did not have support from TRiO programs.
8th District institutions that host TRiO programs are Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Cambridge, Central Lakes College in Brainerd, the College of St. Scholastica, Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, Hibbing Community College, Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Lake Superior College, Mesabi Range Community and Technical College in Virginia, Rainy River Community College in International Falls, the University of Minnesota Duluth and Vermillion Community College in Ely.
TRiO programs are hosted by postsecondary institutions, although federal regulations prohibit recruiting students for the host institution. Access to and graduation from the college of choice is what TRiO strives for.
The positive impact of TRiO on young people is life-changing in many cases. Kendra Souther, a senior at St. Scholastica, said, “Upon entering my freshman year of high school, the word ‘college’ was not a part of my vocabulary. My family only had high school educations and I thought that was all I needed. Through the help and opportunities provided by the St. Scholastica TRiO programs, I now know that life has so much more to offer through higher education. Whether it’s been Upward Bound, Student Support Services, or the McNair Scholars Program, the three programs I progressed through since my freshman year in high school, I have been given the tools and confidence to want to pursue a higher education.
“If these programs can make college a possibility for me,” Souther said, “then TRiO programs can help make it possible for other high school freshmen like me who didn’t think college was possible.”
TRiO program funding is in danger of being cut during discussions in Washington to balance the budget. Go to your schools, talk to students who are participants in these programs and give them a chance to tell you how important the support from TRiO is to their success. Then contact U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken to make clear your support for TRiO programs.
Dreams of college access don’t come easily to kids from families of limited income and whose parents did not attend college. TRiO programs help those dreams become reality for thousands of students who never thought college graduation could happen for them.
Susan Kurth is director of Educational Talent Search, a TRiO program hosted at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.