Insider: Everything to Know About the TRiO Program

By: Sara Noll

In a recent interview with Todd Werner, Director of the TRiO program, he shared pertinent information about the TRiO program and its benefits to college students.

While TRiO has been at OJC for many years, it continues to be a progressive and forward-thinking support for many students. TRiO is the parent organization of eight different programs with the intent to provide equal opportunities for people of all backgrounds to access higher education. Some of these programs are specifically for math and science, some are computer applications toward high school students.

TRiO began when the first program, Upward Bound was established in 1964. The second outreach program, Talent Search was created in 1965 as part of the Higher Education Act. The following program known as Student Support Services was added and is also known as Special Services for Disadvantaged Students. The fourth program was added to TRiO by authorizing Educational Opportunity Centers. The Education Amendments certified the Training Program for the fifth program. Amendments then added the sixth program, the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. The final programs the Department added were the Upward Bound Math/Science program to address the need for specific instruction in the fields of math and science. The TRiO programs have been expanded and improved over the years to provide more services to reach students who need assistance. The only TRiO program currently offered here at OJC is the Student Support Services.

One of the following categories must apply to you to qualify for TRiO Student Support Services:

  1. First Generation – Neither one of your parents have graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Both can have an associate degree and you are still considered first generation.
  2. Low Income – This is based on 150% of the federal poverty level. There is also a certain amount that is based on tax information.
  3. Documented Disability – Proof of some sort of disability.

               TRiO services are not available at all colleges. It is a competitive grant program which means the program can come and go. Every five years a new grant application must be written in order to renew the grant. Once it is sent in to the federal government, the US Department of Education scores the grant applications. Not all applicants are picked or selected. Schools that apply for the grant and do not get approved are welcome to reapply again in the next cycle. There are 13 schools in the state of Colorado that currently have the grant, a mix of junior colleges and four-year colleges such as: CU Boulder, CSU Fort Collins, CSU-Pueblo, Red Rocks Community College, Pikes Peak Community College, Pueblo Community College, Otero Junior College to name a few. Fall 2019 is OJC’s next grant cycle. Otero will rewrite the application and submit everything needed. If a high enough score is received, the grant will be renewed.

TRiO offers many services to support students and help them be successful.  Here’s a list of the offerings:

  • Career advising, course selection or academic advising;
  • Tutoring services;
  • Grant Aid – these are additional funds a student who has been in our program for a year can request to help pay for textbooks or other items related to going to college, like transportation. Last year nearly 10 students were helped transfer to a four-year school by receiving grant aid;
  • A listening ear for struggling students and referrals to other agencies or people if needed.

All of these services provided are shared with the intent that students will keep their grades up, by maintaining a GPA of a 2.0 or higher, and they will graduate with either a certificate or an associate degree. Ideally, TRiO really works with students and encourages transfer to a four-year school to earn a bachelor’s degree.

As Director of the TRiO program, Werner’s main role is to oversee the Student Support Services program and make sure the college is following the federal guidelines on how the program functions. Whether it be from the budget, to data collections, to student records, he makes sure TRiO is providing the services that will best help the students be successful.

While Werner is fairly new to the TRiO program, he has many years of experience in K-12 with students of all ages. This contributes to his job by helping provide a connection between high school and higher education. Werner states, “My favorite part about my job is I still get to work with students, but it is students of different ages. It’s been fun! I was asked this question about three weeks ago and one of the things that came to mind is we still get to talk to students about hope, opportunity, and their future. I get to do it at a different level than if I was working with a 14-year old freshman; it is much different.”

From personal experiences, Werner knows the importance of taking advantage of programs like TRiO. When going to school not too long ago, Werner was first generation/low income eligible and did not realize it until after he got this job. Werner claims, “I wish I would have realized that and been able to access the TRiO program Student Support Services of CSU. I think I would have been a more successful college student if I had those resources.”

TRiO is a very unique opportunity. The grant pays for all services so everything that is provided for the students is free. It is strongly encouraged for all first-generation students or any student that thinks they might qualify for the program to visit TRiO.  Check out TRiO and see if there is someway this program can help you out!

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