TRiO receives new grant funds



Dr. Karen Madden

Northern Vermont University-Johnson’s Trio program has just received some good news about its funding.
The Trio office, which is a part of the Academic Support Services umbrella at NVU-J, earned its grant funding for the next five years after completing an extensive grant writing process to ensure that students enrolled in the program are still getting their needs met.
The total budget, coming in at $2,342,015 for the next five years, will allow the Trio office to carry out its tasks without costing the college funds from its own budget.
Given that 71 percent of students on campus qualify for Trio funding, that leaves the office with about $1700 per person when the expenses are broken down. This goes towards programs such as financial aid awards, the Summer Bridge program and direct funding for the office staff, all of which receive some portion of their pay directly from the grant.
Because the Trio grant is federal money, the amount received varies from cycle to cycle.
“There have been years since I’ve been here that we haven’t gotten an increase [in funding] at all, and we actually got a cut back one year,” Director of Student Support Services Karen Madden said. “Congress has to appropriate the funds.”
The Trio Program at NVU-J is the largest in Vermont, making it a well established when it comes to reapplying for a new grant every five years. Writing and Humanities Specialist and Trio Mentor Leila Bandar wrote the grant this cycle.
The process for writing the Trio grant is a long one, requiring nearly a year’s worth of preparation to complete. The actual grant structure is comprised of a declaration of need section in which the program must demonstrate a significant need for funds; an objectives section which states what the Trio program plans for the grant cycle; and a program breakdown, which lists all of the facets of the program in an outline.
The Trio program must also show data-based evidence that its goals are being met. So far, the NVU-Johnson office has exceeded its objectives for as long as Madden has been heading the program.
Points are assigned for each category completed and then tallied for a final total to determine the score that a program achieves. Without meeting that threshold, the program will lose its funding and will need to find other sources of funds or have the institution pay out of pocket for the expense.
The selection process is highly competitive, with other colleges and universities in the state not making the cut for this round. UVM lost its grant and Northern Vermont University-Lyndon was only a single point away from reclaiming their grant that was rescinded in the last cycle.
Madden says no large changes are coming for Trio this grant cycle now that the funding has been secured. However, Madden did say that the office would continue to work towards expanding its reach and bringing opportunities to students who meet the criteria for the Trio program.
Recently, reaching students who qualify has been a problem. COVID has affected the number of students who have sought out Trio for services, and this poses a potential problem for the office, which must demonstrate that they are serving enough students to demonstrate need.
“We have trouble recruiting in this environment and we need a lot of students because we graduated a big group of students that was our first Summer Bridge program,” Madden said of meeting that threshold.
Students who wish to investigate their eligibility for the Trio program can visit the Academic Support page on the NVU web page, or through the Canvas class that every student is enrolled in automatically.