Emily Adams, Staff Writer
Colleges across the country face catastrophe from the possible ramifications of President Trump’s proposed budget cuts. On February 12, 2018, President Trump’s administration released the 2019 Fiscal Year’s Budget to Congress, which can be found on the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) website. Part of the proposed budget is an overall cut of $7.1 billion in funding to the Department of Education. Furthermore, President Trump made a proposal to consolidate TRIO and GEAR UP into a $550 million state formula grant program to support evidence based post secondary preparation programs.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the federal TRIO programs (TRIO) are federal outreach and student services designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with disabilities.
Congress decided to pass legislation to raise federal spending for two years. The Fiscal Year of 2019’s budget has a section dealing with funding for TRIO and it’s affiliated services. President Trump proposes that the only programs TRIO be funded for are TRIO Talent Search and Upward Bound programs. Other programs that are currently being funded will lose their funding.
In fact, the budget proposes a cut in all funding for Student Support Services (SSS), McNair Post Baccalaureate and Educational Opportunity Centers programs across the country. McNair Post Baccalaureate programs are opportunities to help prepare participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities, as stated on the Department of Education’s website. Furthermore, it proposes a switch to a single state formula, which would reduce the federal role in administrative competitive educations programs. This would give the States significantly more authority to prioritize support for grantees.
In the proposed budget there are also no funds available for GEAR UP. According to the Department of Education, GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.
The TRIO program at USM includes SSS, Upward Bound, Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) and the Bridge Program. Currently 140 students on the three campuses combined utilize assistance offered through the SSS program. It is 92 percent federally funded with a budget of $220,000 awarded annually. VUB serves 125 low income, first generation veterans per year. VUB “Provides assessment and enhancement of basic skill through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas,” as stated on USM’s TRIO website.
In fact, college bound veterans receive year-round support, academic tutoring, VUB advising, preparation for entrance exams, information about financial aid programs, help with financial aid and many other aspects through this program.
“At USM, we have nearly 350 student veterans – the highest number of any college or university in Maine – and we’ve made it our mission to help them achieve and excel in their academic goals,” stated USM President Glenn Cummings.
The TRIO Upward Bound program at USM assists high school students with graduating from college within six years of enrolling. According to USM’s TRIO website, Upward Bound serves 64 high school students from Bonny Eagle, Massabesic, and Sacopee Valley High Schools, as well as 63 students from Biddeford and Sanford High Schools.
The final program that USM offers through TRIO is the Bridge Program. This is a summer program that “Included opportunities to become familiar with USM’s campuses and resources, increases your Math and English skills, and make new friends who can share your college experience,” as stated on USM’s TRIO website.
The Bridge Program provides ongoing college coaching and academic support. Through this program, individuals have the chance to earn a $250 stipend upon completion of as well as earning two USM college credits.
President Trump’s agenda threatens all the progress and assistance USM’s TRIO program has made with students and their futures. Laurie Davis, the Executive Director of USM’s TRIO program has other concerns regarding Trump’s agenda, and she has stated that there are some other issues which TRIO programs are watching very closely. Issues such as TRIO being a competitive grant program, which will change with President Trump’s new proposal.
Trump’s agenda effects not only at USM’s programs but the TRIO and GEAR UP programs across the state and nation. Currently, TRIO and GEAR UP serve over 16,500 students and participants across the state in 29 different projects. There is over $11 million a year allocated in funds for these programs. Every single University of Maine school, community colleges and Thomas college have a SSS program available to them. President Trump’s proposed cuts will cause this opportunity to become nonexistent to the individuals who need the assistance SSS offers.
Davis shared information about how close knit the Upward Bound and TRIO programs are across the state of Maine. All the heads of the departments from across the state get together at least once a year to talk about their progress and any new developments with the programs. This annual meeting was held last month on March 5. Davis stated that they believe in being a part of the bigger picture and the community that is Upward Bound.