7/16/2015 — 

PROVIDENCE, RI – As Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation continues working to make college more affordable and protect Pell grants from budget cuts, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced over $554,000 in federal funding to support existing college success and completion programs at Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI).

The U.S. Department of Education, which administers the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program, notified CCRI that “it is anticipated that the grants will be for a total of five years,” meaning the college could receive as much as $2,773,710 through 2020, pending annual appropriations by Congress. 

First-generation college students, those who meet low-income qualifications, or those with a disability are eligible to apply for TRIO.  In order to help these students navigate college life, the SSS program offers specialized tutoring, along with workshops on issues like financial literacy, leadership development, and finding a career path.  The federal program is designed to increase graduation rates and help students transfer from two-year to four-year colleges.

CCRI’s successful TRIO SSS program, known as “Access to Opportunity,” was first launched in 1980 and serves approximately 440 CCRI students annually from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages (19 to 57).  Previous graduates have gone on to a variety of careers, including some current full-time and adjunct faculty and staff at CCRI.

“TRIO helps students acclimate to college life and prepares them to overcome some higher education hurdles.  Through skills workshops and other support services, this program can be a real lifeline for first-generation college students.  It teaches them things like time management, good study habits, and helps set them up for success in the college classroom and beyond.  I am proud of the work CCRI is doing and will continue fighting to ensure more deserving students have the opportunity to attend college and the resources to afford it,” said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee.

“This funding will provide the support CCRI students need to complete their degrees and find good, well-paying jobs.  That’s a big win for our students and our economy, which depends more than ever on highly trained workers,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  “I congratulate CCRI on earning this funding.”

“CCRI does an exceptional job educating and preparing Rhode Island students for a brighter future, and this funding will help level the playing field for first-generation and low-income students, and students with disabilities. These individuals face tremendous challenges outside the classroom but they are no less capable of achieving great things, and the TRIO program empowers them to overcome these obstacles,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “Access to education is access to opportunity, and increasing opportunities for Rhode Islanders is the surest path to a strong workforce and a vibrant economy.”

“Expanding access to higher education and workforce training is one of the most effective ways to retrain our workforce and create long-term economic growth here in Rhode Island,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “CCRI is doing incredible work today to equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. I congratulate them on this significant new grant award and look forward to seeing these funds put to use to benefit Rhode Islanders.”

“CCRI is pleased and proud to have received continued funding for our TRIO Student Support Services project, our longest-standing and most successful support program for eligible students,” said President Ray Di Pasquale. “It is often the model of best practice that others reference when discussing what helps first-generation and low-income students overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams.”

CCRI’s graduating Class of 2015 included 85 TRIO SSS students, 51 percent of whom completed their degree in three years.  Fifty-six percent of these graduates will transfer to four-year institutions this fall.

Congress originally authorized so-called TRIO programs such as Upward Bound and Talent Search through the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965.  In 1968, Student Support Services was initiated by the Higher Education Amendments and became the third in a series of educational opportunity programs.  The term “TRIO” was coined in the 1960s to describe these three initial programs to expand access to educational opportunities to low-income and first generation students.