The TRIO programs were the first national college access and retention programs to
address the serious social and cultural barriers to education in America. (Previously,
only college financing had been on policymakers' radar.) The history of TRIO is progressive;
it began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. The Educational/Economic
Opportunity Act of 1964 established an experimental program known as Upward Bound.
Then, in 1965, the Higher Education Act created Talent Search, the second outreach
program. Finally, another program, Special Services for Disadvantaged Students (later
known as Student Support Services), was launched in 1968, authorized by the Higher
Education Amendments and became the third in a series of educational opportunity programs.
By the late 1960s, the term “TRIO” was coined to describe these federally funded programs
that encouraged access to higher education for low-income students.
Over the years, the TRIO Programs have been expanded and improved to provide a wider range of services to reach more students who need assistance. By 1998, the TRIO programs had become a vital pipeline to opportunity, serving traditional students, displaced workers, and veterans. The original three programs had grown to eight. The Higher Education Amendments of 1972 added the fourth program by authorizing the Educational Opportunity Centers. Training Programs for Special Programs Staff and Leadership Personnel were added due to the Education Amendments of 1976.
Amendments in 1986 added the sixth program, the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate
Achievement Program. Additionally, in 1990, the Department of Education created Upward
Bound Math/Science to address the need for specific instruction in the fields of math
and science. The Upward Bound Math/Science program is administered under the same
regulations as the regular Upward Bound program from 1964, but it must be applied
for separately. The TRIO Dissemination Partnership came about in 1998. Finally, the
Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 amended the Student Support Services
(SSS) program to permit the use of program funds for direct financial assistance (Grant
Aid) for current SSS participants who are receiving Federal Pell Grants.
The legislative requirements for all Federal TRIO Programs can be found in the Higher Education Act of 1965, Title IV, Part A, Subpart 2. The requirements for the SSS Grant Aid can be found in Public Law 106-554.
TRIO Programs at a Glance
The Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) are federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs. TRIO also includes a training program for directors and staff of TRIO projects. As mandated by Congress, two-thirds of the students served must come from families with incomes at 150% or less of the federal poverty level and in which neither parent graduated from college.
Upward Bound (1964)
Upward Bound provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance. The program provides opportunities for participants to succeed in their precollege performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits. Upward Bound serves: high school students from low-income families; and high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree. The goal of Upward Bound is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education.
Talent Search (1965)
The Talent Search program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their postsecondary education. The program publicizes the availability of financial aid and assists participants with the postsecondary application process. Talent Search also encourages persons who have not completed education programs at the secondary or postsecondary level to enter or reenter and complete postsecondary education. The goal of Talent Search is to increase the number of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their postsecondary education.
Student Support Services (1968)
Through a grant competition, funds are awarded to institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for academic development, assist students with basic college requirements, and to motivate students toward the successful completion of their postsecondary education. Student Support Services (SSS) projects also may provide grant aid to current SSS participants who are receiving Federal Pell Grants. The goal of SSS is to increase the college retention and graduation rates of its participants.
Educational Opportunity Centers (1972)
The Educational Opportunity Centers program provides counseling and information on college admissions to qualified adults who want to enter or continue a program of postsecondary education. The program also provides services to improve the financial and economic literacy of participants. An important objective of the program is to counsel participants on financial aid options, including basic financial planning skills, and to assist in the application process. The goal of the EOC program is to increase the number of adult participants who enroll in postsecondary education institutions.
Veterans Upward Bound (1972)
Veterans Upward Bound is designed to motivate and assist veterans in the development of academic and other requisite skills necessary for acceptance and success in a program of postsecondary education. The program provides assessment and enhancement of basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas. The primary goal of the program is to increase the rate at which participants enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs.
Training Program for Federal TRIO Programs (1976)
Through a grant competition, funds are awarded to institutions of higher education and other public and private nonprofit institutions and organizations to support training to enhance the skills and expertise of project directors and staff employed in the Federal TRIO Programs. Funds may be used for conferences, seminars, internships, workshops, or the publication of manuals. Training topics are based on priorities established by the Secretary of Education and announced in Federal Register notices inviting applications.
Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement (1986)
Through a grant competition, funds are awarded to institutions of higher education to prepare eligible participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. Participants are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have demonstrated strong academic potential. Institutions work closely with participants as they complete their undergraduate requirements. Institutions encourage participants to enroll in graduate programs and then track their progress through to the successful completion of advanced degrees. The goal is to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society.
Upward Bound Math/Science (1990)
The Upward Bound Math/Science program is designed to strengthen the math and science skills of participating students. The goal of the program is to help students recognize and develop their potential to excel in math and science and to encourage them to pursue postsecondary degrees in math and science, and ultimately careers in a math or science profession.