Trio Programs: What Is It And How Can It Benefit You?

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Loans, grants, and scholarships are helpful to most students in their dreams of getting a college degree. Still, some US students come from more significantly disadvantaged backgrounds and either don’t have access to the same source for funding, or it’s simply not enough for them.


Luckily, the federal government has a series of programs in place to help disadvantaged students obtain a college degree.


Many new students have not heard about the TRIO programs, which is a set of eight different federally funded programs meant to help students in need. Read on to learn more about what the TRIO program is, the eight individual programs, and why they’re necessary.



Woman graduating with help of TRIO programs
Photo by Joshua Mcknight from Pexels



What Is TRIO?

TRIO is a group of federally funded outreach programs that were put in place to support disadvantaged students who would like to pursue higher education. There are eight programs that make up TRIO, each one of them with a unique focus.


The eight programs are meant to help students who come from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, and first-generation college students.


The federal TRIO programs aren’t only for university students, but in some cases, they even begin in middle school in order to help children succeed.


Aside from helping students, TRIO also includes programs to help train staff and directors for greater TRIO projects.


That being said, students themselves cannot apply for grants through the TRIO program. Instead, the grants are distributed to different educational institutions, such as places of higher education as well as community-based organizations and private agencies that help disadvantaged students.


In case you were wondering, TRIO is not an acronym, but a name that was attributed after the first three programs were established.



History of the Federal TRIO Program

The TRIO program became the first program for disadvantaged students to access college and also the first program to recognize the different barriers to education.


Originally, TRIO started as part of the War on Poverty, a movement started by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

The first program to be formed under TRIO back then was Upward Bound. In 1965, the Talent Search program followed after the creation of the Higher Education Act. In 1968, the Student Support Services program was established and the TRIO program was born, made up of its three flagship programs.


Over the years, more amendments to federal programs paved the way for more TRIO programs to be established. Throughout the next three decades, more programs would be established under the TRIO umbrella. Today, TRIO includes eight programs in different fields and levels of education.



The 8 TRIO Programs

Each of the eight TRIO programs is meant to help students in a different way. They all have different aims and structures. Let’s take a closer look at the details of the eight different programs.



1. Upward Bound


Upward Bound was the first program to be implemented into the TRIO program. The Upward Bound program is meant for high-school students from low-income families, and its goal is to help them succeed in both getting accepted to college and also graduating from higher education institutions.



2. Talent Search


Talent Search is for high school students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and show promise in completing levels of higher education. Talent Search encourages students to graduate from high school by providing career, academic, and financial consulting. The ultimate goal of Talent Search is to encourage a greater number of students of disadvantaged backgrounds to finish high school and pursue post-secondary education.



3. Student Support Services


The Student Support Services program, or SSS, provides a federal competitive grant to higher education institutions. SSS aims to help students complete basic college requirements, creates opportunities for academic development, and also helps motivate students to finish their schooling through college graduation.



Two young students in school participants in federal TRIO programs
Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah from Pexels



4. Veterans Upward Bound


Similar to the original Upward Bound program, this one is specifically made with veterans in mind. The Veterans Upward Bound program helps veterans develop important academic skills they need in order to get accepted into a higher education program. The program offers mentoring, tutoring, counseling, and more in order to improve veterans’ skills. Overall, the goal of this program is to increase the rate of enrollment and completion of post-secondary education for veterans.



5. Education Opportunities Centers


Through the Education Opportunities Centers, adult students who want to continue their post-secondary studies can receive help with college admissions. The program also helps these adult students with financial planning for their education. Unlike some of the other TRIO programs, this one is specifically for adults.



6. Training Program for Federal TRIO Programs


The Training Program is also funded through a federal grant competition. Funds are allocated to higher education institutions, nonprofits, and organizations to help train TRIO staff members and directors. The funds are meant to help with conducting conferences, internships, workshops, seminars, and also to publish materials for the TRIO programs.



7. Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program


The Ronald E. McNair program uses a grant competition to provide funds to help potential doctoral students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The funds are given to institutions of higher education and are meant to help with research and academic activities. The goal of this program is to help students with high potential succeed in their undergraduate degree in order to apply for more advanced degrees.



8. Upward Bound Math-Science


The last of the TRIO programs is another Upward Bound program. The Upward Bound Math-Science program is meant to help secondary students excel in math and sciences programs in order to encourage them to continue studying these subjects in post-secondary institutions and to pursue careers in these fields. The program runs summer classes to allow students to study advanced topics that may count towards college credits.



Why Are TRIO Programs Important?

The TRIO programs create necessary avenues for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in school and gain access to help, both financially and academically. In the US, there is a gap in the accessibility to education and, often, some students are left behind.


In fact, only about 38% of low-income students end up going to college, compared to 81% of their peers who come from higher-income backgrounds. Low-income students still display similar talents, interest, and overall potential as their peers, so it’s important to create programs that give them opportunities to excel.


This educational gap in the US isn’t only relevant for students, but also goes on to affect the country’s workforce and the economy. By lifting students up and providing them with the resources they need to achieve their goals, the TRIO program ultimately hopes to bridge the gap in access to education.



Notable TRIO Program Participants

In case you weren’t sure if the TRIO program works, take a look at these famous and notable alumni who were helped at some point by one or more of the eight TRIO programs.


Angela Bassett – actress
Upward Bound


Henry Bonilla – former US Congressman, 23rd district of Texas
Talent Search


Viola Davis – actress
Upward Bound, Student Support Services


Bernard Harris – first African American astronaut
Ronald E McNair Scholars


John Quinones – correspondent for ABC News on “Prime Time Live”
Upward Bound


Patrick Ewing – Olympian, NBA player, basketball coach
Upward Bound


Cardi B – rapper, songwriter
Upward Bound


Oprah Winfrey – talk-show host, entrepreneur
Upward Bound


José M. Hernández – NASA astronaut
Upward Bound


To Wrap Up

If you’d like to find out if you or someone you know qualifies for assistance from one of the TRIO programs, visit its website or talk to representatives from your schools.


At University of the People, we believe that education should be accessible to all and that higher education is a basic human right. We offer high-quality classes and tuition-free studies in multiple fields for students of all backgrounds from around the world. Learn more about our accredited online degree programs and find out if you qualify.