Trio receives 5-year grant

Johnson State College’s federally funded Student Support Services TRiO Program has received a grant for another five years, as of Wednesday, July 15, 2015, to continue to be able to serve the 235 students in its program.

TRiO is a federally funded program that helps low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and disabled college students work their way to a degree. Institutes of higher education taking part in this program are required to offer five specific services, which are advising, financial literacy, help applying to graduate school, financial aid assistance and academic coaching. They may also offer basic personal and career counseling, among other things.

The grant that Johnson State College received is in the amount of $393,484 for the first budget period of Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2016.

“We are funded a year at a time,” said JSC Director of Academic Support Services Karen Madden. “It’s a five-year grant, but you have to be making what the government calls substantial progress every year, so we submit an annual performance report usually in November.”

The government goes through this report to make sure that the Academic Support office is surveying its full number of students, which is 235. Two-thirds of these students must be first-generation and low-income, and the remaining one-third of students must have disabilities and low income.
The government also checks whether the grant was being spent wisely in that year, and if money was left over, why was it left over? If all of this is in order, then JSC’s TRiO program will be funded for another year as long as the state appropriates the money.

“It’s pretty much guaranteed that we’ll be funded for the full five years,” says Madden. “It’s rare that folks aren’t, but there is always that possibility.”

Before 2010, the TRiO grant was a four-year grant, and if institutions received a perfect score of 100 after the four years, they’d be funded for a fifth. In 2010, it changed to all TRiO grants being five-years.

Johnson State College also receives a supplemental grant fund to offer money directly to the students. Money from this fund is available to students with 60 credits or less, who are Pell Grant eligible, have at least a 2.0 G.P.A., have visited their mentor at least three times a semester and have taken a financial literacy tutorial.

In the past, JSC’s Academic Support Office had been able to award $30,000 to students from the supplemental grant, but with reduced funding and increased costs and salaries, that number is down to about $10,000.

“So, we still serve the same number of students and still provide the same amount of services, but with less funding. All SSS [Student Support Services] programs have less funding,” said Madden.

Even though the TRiO program at JSC can only serve and report to the government on 235 students, Madden wants to make sure that the community knows that the Academic Support Services office, as a whole, serves every student with additional funding from the college. Academic coaching is a free service provided to all JSC students, and the Learning Specialist Richard Simmons will help any student with a documented disability, regardless of whether he/she is a TRiO student. The Academic Support Office holds nearly a thousand tutoring sessions per semester, and only half of those students are in the TRiO program.