Record Number of Bipartisan Representatives Call to Prioritize Funding for Federal TRIO Programs

Federal TRIO Programs assist low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities prepare for and graduate from college.

The non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education (“COE”) announced today that a record 275 TRIO supporters in the House of Representatives joined a “sign-on” letter urging the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to prioritize the nation’s investment in the Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO).

“The COVID-19 crisis has ravaged every stage of our education system, thus making the need for targeted investments in TRIO more urgent,” the letter states. “Without TRIO’s individualized counseling, advising, and support, we could lose an entire generation of low-income, first-generation students.”

Rooted in the Civil Rights Movement and authorized by the Higher Education Act, TRIO programs provide personal mentoring and advising, academic support, and financial counseling to help first-generation and low-income students, as well as students with disabilities, military veterans, and other underrepresented students to prepare for, enroll in, and graduate from college.

In FY 2023, the TRIO community is asking Congress to continue to prioritize TRIO funding, with the goal of ultimately serving at least a million more students annually. With programs assisting students in virtually every Congressional District, the breadth of TRIO’s reach manifests in the depth of its support across ideological lines.

Co-led by Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ),Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Chris Pappas (D-NH), and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the TRIO Appropriations letter acquired signatures from 275 Congressmen and Congresswomen — more than half of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Signatories included the leadership of the House Republican Conference, House Democratic Caucus, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), New Democrat Coalition, Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), and Problem Solvers Caucus.

“Every young person and adult should have an equal opportunity to prepare for, attend, and graduate from college,” says COE President Maureen Hoyler. “Despite setbacks created by the pandemic, our nation’s low-income and first-generation youth and adult learners benefit when Representatives from both sides of the aisle agree to prioritize investments in TRIO.”

Currently, five TRIO alumni serve in the U.S. Congress; they are Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Nikema Williams (D-GA). Past TRIO alumni who have served in Congress include former Representative Henry Bonilla (R-TX).

Find the full text of the House letter and list of signers hereand the full list of Congressional signatories here.

Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI)

“I wouldn’t be in Congress if it wasn’t for TRIO. Now, as a Congresswoman, I can advocate for the programs which gave so much to me when I was a poor, expectant mother in college. I am honored to join my colleagues in pushing for robust TRIO funding, to ensure first-generation students, low-income students, veterans, and individuals with disabilities can benefit from this life-changing resource.”

Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ)

“Federal TRIO programs play a critical role in helping low-income students in New Jersey and across the country overcome obstacles and advance from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). “Targeted to assist first-generation college students, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and economically-disadvantaged students, these important educational outreach programs support those in need while boosting our domestic economy by creating a skilled, college-educated workforce.”

Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)

“As a former teacher, I am proud to lead the effort in Congress to prioritize Missouri’s TRIO programs that provide guidance, mentoring, tutoring, and advising to help our students become the first in their families to enter college and get a degree – setting a promising path for their life and coming back to contribute to the economy and small businesses in rural and urban parts of our state,” Hartzler said. “With 63 TRIO programs currently serving 20,000 Missouri students, it has been encouraging to see their success for the benefit of our state.”

Representative Nikema Williams (D-GA)

“TRIO works, y’all! I was born on a farm in rural Alabama in a home with no indoor plumbing and no running water. I was fortunate to have participated in Talladega College’s TRIO Talent Search, Upward Bound, Student Support Services, and McNair Programs. My biology teacher Dr. Brown and so many TRIO staff showed me the way and exposed me to so much, and now I’m fortunate to join Senator Warnock – the first TRIO alum in the Senate. We are living our ancestors’ wildest dreams. We are fighting to pay it forward for more first-generation and low-income students to earn a college degree in Georgia and across the country.”

Representative Fred Upton (R-MI)

“I have visited Hope College’s TRIO Upward Bound program many times and I am incredibly proud of the life-changing work they do every day. I am always impressed with how the program helps young Michiganders become the first in their families to make it to college – and get a degree! I’m all in for TRIO – and proud to lead this bipartisan effort this year to prioritize funding for Michigan’s 77 TRIO Programs serving 17,000 students statewide.”

Representative Salud Carbajal (D-CA)

“TRIO programs are critical to providing students from underserved communities the tools they need to succeed while pursuing a higher education degree,” Rep. Carbajal said. “Democrats and Republicans alike agree that TRIO programs are vital to our young constituents’ academic success, and I’m proud to lead this effort to ensure we prioritize support for these programs in our next budget.”

Representative Trent Kelly (R-MS)

“In my district, there are 32 TRIO college success programs helping more than 8,300 Mississippians from become the first in their family to graduate college — from middle school to high school, undergrads to grad school — plus adult learners returning to education. TRIO is making a difference in helping our people get good jobs and support the economy in rural and urban areas in Mississippi — and I’m proud to lead this bipartisan group of my colleagues to continue to prioritize funding.”

Representative Chris Pappas (D-NH)

“Ensuring every Granite Stater can access quality education is essential for our economic growth and future,” said Congressman Pappas, “TRIO programs allow underserved communities including first-gen students, veterans, and students of color to pursue an education and build a better life for themselves and their families. I’ll keep fighting to fund educational programs like this one so all our students have the opportunity to get ahead.”

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY)

“As the first member of my immediate family to graduate from college, I know firsthand how important higher education is for the next generation,” Stefanik said. “I am proud to support TRIO to ensure high school students in Upstate New York and the North Country can have the guidance and support necessary to become the first in their families to pursue higher education and achieve their college degrees.”