The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

UTC TRIO Programs Open Educational Opportunities to All

In 1986, the 99th Congress passed a resolution urging each of us to celebrate National TRIO Day on the last Saturday of February each year. This observance calls attention to TRIO programs (initially just three programs) and their place in the federal strategy to ensure equal educational opportunity in higher education. These programs enable Americans, regardless of economic circumstance, race, or ethnic background, to successfully enter college and graduate.

UTC is among the 1,200 colleges, universities and community agencies which host over 2,600 TRIO Programs serving 872,000 young people and adults. Thirty-seven percent (37%) of TRIO students are Caucasian, 36% are African-American, 19% are Hispanic, 4% are Native American, 4% are Asian American and 2% are listed as "other," including multiracial students. Sixteen thousand students with disabilities and more than 25,000 U.S. veterans are currently enrolled in TRIO Programs as well.

"To the many individuals from low-income families who have college potential but lack the wherewithal to go it alone, UTC TRIO Programs has been making a world of difference for over 30 years," said Shirl S. Gholston, Director of Student Support Services/Project FOCUS.

Student Support Services/Project FOCUS helps UTC students to stay in college until they earn their baccalaureate degrees. Participants, who include disabled students, receive tutoring, counseling, mentoring, exposure to cultural enrichment activities and financial aid. Students in the program are more than twice as likely to remain in college than those students from similar backgrounds who did not participate in the program.

Upward Bound is an early intervention TRIO program. This program effectively reaches students at Brainerd High School, Howard School of Academics and Technology and East Ridge High School who could attend college, but often do not recognize or understand their academic and career options beyond high school. Each year this program keeps many promising young low-income and minority students in school and focused on career and college success.

The Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) provides counseling and information on postsecondary education to adults who reside in one of five counties (Hamilton or Marion in Tennessee or Catoosa, Dade or Walker in Georgia) and do not have a baccalaureate degree. The Center for Community Career Education applied for, and received, the U.S. Department of Education/TRiO grant in 1998. Since that time, the EOC has assisted over
5,500 participants by helping them pursue their individual educational goals. An important objective of the EOC is to counsel participants on financial aid options and to assist in the admissions process to postsecondary institutions or vocational programs. The goal of the EOC is to increase the number of low-income, first-generation students who pursue postsecondary education. All services are FREE!

Upward Bound Math/Science (PRISM) prepares students at Brainerd High School and Tyner High School for post-education programs that will lead to careers in the fields of math and science.

The academic and human services as administered through UTC TRIO programs are comprehensive and go far beyond the traditional services offered by high schools or university personnel. Because most programs serve fewer than 250 students, TRIO professionals have an opportunity to work one-on-one with each student. They get to know each student on a first-name basis and they are personally committed to the success of their students.

TRIO funds (approximately $1 million ) are distributed to UTC through grants. Each TRIO program operates against specific, measurable outcome objectives as clearly defined in each approved grant proposal. TRIO program directors are held accountable and must meet their stated objectives each year to remain funded and able to assist participants in their targeted service area.

"UTC TRIO graduates can be found in many occupations," Gholston said. "They represent the highest aspiration and best hope for the American dream. Because of their success in TRIO programs, they can participate more fully in the nation’s economic and social life. By lifting them out of poverty, UTC is fulfilling its mission ‘... in collaboration with external partners, employ the intellectual resources of the liberal arts and professional programs to enrich the lives of those we serve.' "