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TRIO SSS program receives $1.5 million grant

The vital funding will support a variety of programs to help students persist to graduation.

By Lindsey Coulter

August 19, 2020

TRIO SSS logoMetropolitan State University of Denver’s TRIO Student Support Services program recently was awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The program, which serves around 200 Roadrunners annually, was first brought to campus in the 1970s – making it MSU Denver’s oldest student-retention program.

TRIO SSS helps students through advising, mentorship, tutoring, graduate-school guidance and prep, financial-literacy workshops, cultural events and more. Aligning with the DOE’s priorities, the five-year grant will focus specifically on career readiness.

To qualify for TRIO SSS support (all of which can be accessed online), Roadrunners must show an academic need and identify as first-generation, have a disability and/or be socioeconomically classified as low-income. More than 13,000 MSU Denver students meet these requirements, said Ally Garcia, Ed.D., program director and principal investigator, but sometimes only 20 open spots are available. Statistically, however, students who receive TRIO SSS support excel. According to recent data, 96% of TRIO SSS students are in good standing, and the program has a 90% persistence rate (based on enrollment from fall 2018/spring 2019 to fall 2019). Approximately 45% of participants graduate within six years, and graduates have gone on to pursue medical school and law school and found social-justice nonprofits.

“TRIO SSS firmly believes that our job is twofold,” Garcia said. “We have to offer the best services to our students to help them in whatever path they choose, and we must also constantly challenge systems that reinforce oppression, which created the need for TRIO programs in the first place. We work for the idea that one day a TRIO SSS program is no longer needed because the system itself has become more equitable and inclusive.”

Garcia adds that TRIO is one of the few federal programs that has stood the test of time. The program was created and written into the Higher Education Act of 1965 and has weathered multiple defunding attempts. However, ensuring that the program remains federally funded is an annual effort.

“I, along with many others in the U.S., lobby Congress every year to increase TRIO funds so our students can have the support services they need,” Garcia said. “We know education can be an important factor to help support upward mobility for families and communities.”

For Garcia, the program is uniquely personal. “Both of my parents were in TRIO programs when they first were created 1965,” she said. “They were each the first in their family to go to college, and my life has been forever changed because of TRIO programs. I am very aware of the ripple effects.”

As with so many MSU Denver initiatives, securing such significant funding is a result of employee dedication and cross-department collaboration. In this case, the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs made sure the TRIO SSS team had the tools and resources it needed to be successful in the writing process, while the Business Intelligence team provided critical data to support the request. TRIO SSS members worked diligently to complete the submission, often working over lunch hours and into the evening and weekend, and colleagues in Student Affairs contributed letters of support as well as some moral support.

Campus community members who are interested in supporting TRIO SSS or future grant-writing efforts should contact Garcia. Community members are also encouraged to advocate for the program via social media by using the hashtag #TRIOWORKS.

Topics: Excellence, Funding, Grant, Student Success

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