By: Haley Hersey, Staff Writer
Exciting news of the TRIO program’s funding doubling spreads campus-wide. A press release from the Office of Public Affairs indicated an additional $1.3 million (for a total of $2.6 million) is being provided to TRIO from the U.S. Department of Education. The additional funding allows the program to advise 120 STEM majors within the university as well as the 140 students in a variety of majors they were able to advise with previous funding.
The United States Department of Education cites that The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which was reactionary to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, founded Upward Bound. In 1965, the Higher Education Act saw the creation of the second outreach program, Talent Search. Higher Education Amendments permissed Student Support Services in 1968 as the third educational opportunity program. TRIO was the name given to all of the programs by the late 1960s.
According to the director of TRIO College Programs at USM, Terri Plummer, “TRIO College Programs is about leveling the playing fields for underrepresented, first-generation, income-eligible, and disabled students. Often these students face barriers to succeeding in higher education. TRIO staff and peer mentors work with participants to help break down those barriers, provide resources for success, and create a community where TRIO students can not only belong, but lead.”
Plummer is passionate about educating students on the resources TRIO provides including, bringing “first-year USM students to campus a week before classes start to experience college life, gain skills and resources, and make friends.”
Despite challenges thrown by COVID-19 this semester, Plummer insists TRIO maintained being an active resource by hosting meetings and virtual events on Zoom. TRIO’s 1965 establishment will be celebrated on First Generation Day (Nov 8th) with some virtual festivities hosted by TRIO states Plummer. As for TRIO Scholars and TRIO STEM, they will be having their summer programs. Plummer says, “We will be hiring additional advisors over the next couple months who will work closely with TRIO students as well as STEM faculty to assist and support students majoring in STEM.”.
Dean of the College of Science, Technology, and Health, Jeremy Qualls, had a lot to share on the impact of the additional grants here at USM. “USM is gaining momentum as a leader in academic excellence and the quality of our STEM programs. We are seeing a significant increase in external grants and private donations.”
There is also an increase in student retention and graduation rates as funding allows for further support and resources to be available to the student body. According to Dean Qualls, as of 2017 roughly 62% of USM’s student body was eligible to be in TRIO with approximately 1,313 of those students majoring in STEM programs. With almost half of those eligible for TRIO majoring in STEM programs, the additional $1.3 million grants will be instrumental in helping support students at USM.
Dean Qualls reassures, “TRIO services will continue and I am eager to help explore and support our students during the COVID-19 global pandemic.”
For students interested in learning more about TRIO and the TRIO STEM grants, there will be a TRIO Information Night on Tuesday, November 17, from 6:00-7:00 p.m. The event is also Passport approved for the Student Engagement Passport. The Zoom link to join the meeting is: https://maine.zoom.us/j/9650151254