Policymakers designed the TRIO programs to support students from low-income families (those living below the poverty line, defined as an income of $33,525 or below for a family of four). Though TRIO includes eight separate programs, only three provide services for students in middle school and high school.
Grants are awarded from the Department of Education to postsecondary institutions or public and private organizations competitively. Eligible applicants and the size of grant awards vary according to each program. The federal cost per participant ranged from a high of $8,127 for the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement program to a low of $243 for Educational Opportunity Centers in fiscal year 2013. For the high school programs – Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math-Science – grantees use the awards in a variety of ways, including establishing mentoring programs, providing tutoring sessions outside of regular school time, and establishing academic programs for students. The grants are all targeted for disadvantaged students, including low-income students and first-generation college students.
In fiscal year 2014, Congress provided the TRIO programs with $838.3 million in funding. Of that, the Department of Education reserved $445 million for the three secondary school programs.
TRIO Talent Search
Schools and organizations that are awarded TRIO Talent Search grants select students from low-income families who have a high potential to succeed in postsecondary education. Students are selected by test scores, parent or teacher nominations, or other approaches. Participating middle or high school students receive support services through out-of-school efforts or through special pull-out sessions during the school day from the time they enter the program until they either graduate high school or decide to opt out. Support services include tutoring, career counseling, mentoring, assistance with financial aid applications, or other academic support.
Organizations participating in the program are not required to raise matching funds. In fiscal year 2014, only continuation awards were funded. Last year, the Department of Education allocated less than $130 million to the TRIO Talent Search program. In total, nearly 300,000 students nationwide participated. The per-student cost of the program in 2013 was low – only $428.
TRIO Upward Bound
Partnering organizations that are awarded TRIO Upward Bound grants target high-school freshmen and sophomores who might benefit from additional instructional time. Participating students can be nominated by teachers, selected by application, or other approaches. Upward Bound organizations provide participants tutoring in math, science, reading, writing, or foreign languages on college campuses until they graduate high school. In addition to receiving academic help, the program may enroll students in mentoring, counseling, or work-study programs. Partnering organizations include postsecondary institutions, secondary schools, and community organizations.
Upward Bound organizations are not required to raise matching funds and are eligible for up-to-five-year grants. The Department of Education allocated $266.7 million to the program in fiscal year 2014. Last year, the program received funding just shy of $250 million, which was distributed across 816 grantees with an average award of $306,198. In 2013, more than 59,000 students participated. The per-student cost of the program was $4,170.
In recent years, Congress has provided Upward Bound programs with annual supplemental funds outside the annual appropriations process ($331,884 in fiscal year 2013). Congress included this mandatory funding in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) of 2007 to restore funding for the nearly 200 applicants who did not receive awards due to funding cuts but had a sufficiently high score on their grant applications in 2007. Modest supplemental funding was still available in 2013.
TRIO Upward Bound Math-Science
While TRIO Upward Bound focuses on a range of academic subjects, the TRIO Upward Bound Math-Science program establishes opportunities for Upward Bound students to participate in research projects, intensive summer math and science sessions, or computer training on college campuses. The Department of Education awards Upward Bound Math-Science grants to postsecondary institutions, school districts, or other organizations for up to five years. The average award in fiscal year 2013 was more than $250,000. In 2014, The Department of Education allocated $40.5 million to the program, which supported 162 awards and the nearly 10,000 students who participated in the 2013-2014 school year. The average per-student cost was $4,185.