A Breakdown of the Federal TRIO Programs

Golden plate number 8 screwed on a wooden table.

Flickr user Tee Cee

The Federal TRIO programs were introduced as a way to identify and help students from disadvantaged and lower-income backgrounds.

There are eight TRIO programs, all funded by the US Department of Education. Each of the programs has its own distinct goal, which is different from the other programs. Some are community-based organizations while others aim to provide grants or funds for higher education.

TRIO is not an acronym. It was initially named for the first three of its programs: Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Student Support Services.

Here’s a look at the eight programs that come under the Federal TRIO Programs umbrella.

Upward Bound

Upward Bound is the first of the three major programs implemented. This program is the most widespread and the most successful. It is funded by the US Department of Education.

The goal of the Upward Bound program is to provide high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the necessary resources to be able to go to college. This program typically works with students from low-income families, students hailing from rural areas, first-generation college students, and first-generation military veterans who wish to pursue their higher education.

High school students who qualify for the program receive college prep support in 3 academic areas including literature, composition, lab science, math, and foreign language. Ensuring that these students perform well in high school, paves the way for them to then go on to college.

In addition to grants, Upward Bound provides numerous tutoring, travel, and scholarship opportunities to these students.

Talent Search

Talent Search also works with middle school/junior high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As with the Upward Bound program, students from low-income families as well as students whose parents do not have a degree qualify for the Talent Search program too. However, the aim of the program is different.

The Talent Search program aims to encourage qualifying students to go on to college, using intervention strategies. Under this program, middle and high school students are provided with numerous tutoring, travel, and scholarship opportunities. Students are also provided with a robust mentoring program through local colleges and universities. This is a grant-funded program, and every five years the program directors must prove that there is an economic need within their communities.

Student Support Services

The goal of Student Support Services is to boost college retention and graduation rates. Student Support Services provides continuous academic assistance, counseling, and mentoring to qualifying students who get into college. This support is provided all the way through graduation. Students also get help with applying for financial aid, and with developing a solid academic plan around their skills and aptitude. Those students who are not proficient in English receive additional tutoring to help master the language.

Educational Opportunity Centers

Educational Opportunity Centers provide counseling to adults who would like to pursue a college education. This program is funded through the US Department of Education, and focuses on providing financial aid options for qualifying adults. It also provides basic financial planning skills.

This program primarily aims to encourage and support adults who want to pursue post-secondary education, but who may be financially disadvantaged.

Veterans Upward Bound

The goal of the Veterans Upward Bound program is to provide financial and general support to veterans who want to pursue postsecondary education, but who may not have the academic skills necessary to do so.

Upward Bound Math-Science

This Upward Bound Math-Science began as part of the 1965 Higher Education Act, and it was renewed in 2008 via the Higher Education Opportunity Act. This program provides training and counseling to students who have completed 8th grade. It provides academic counseling, computer skills, and connections to university faculty with a focus on improving science, math, and technology skills. Students must be from low-income areas and be first-generation potential college students to qualify for the counseling and training provided under the Upward Bound Math-Science program.

In addition to year round training, the Upward Bound Math-Science Program also holds summer classes to provide qualifying students with additional assistance in wide range of subjects. These classes count as college credit.

Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program

The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program focuses on encouraging and supporting students who are in any of the TRIO programs as undergraduates to attend graduate school and earn PhDs.

Students who qualify for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program are typically first-generation college students and those from racial and ethnic groups that are typically underserved in collegiate programs. Students must also be from low-income households.

Federal Training Program for TRIO

Working with the TRIO programs requires certain knowledge and expertise. That’s what the Federal Training Program for TRIO does. It is designed to train and develop future TRIO instructors and representatives. Anybody who wishes to work within the program must complete the Federal Training Program for TRIO program. Individuals enrolled in this program attend workshops, lectures, and conferences. They also get the opportunity to participate in internships.

Still think you can’t go to college, or that a college education is out of reach for you? If you are a first-generation college student or you come from a low-income household, speak with a guidance counselor about your local TRIO programs to see what is available and how you can benefit from them.


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