Press Releases

Council for Opportunity in Education to Congress — TRIO Needs $450 Million in Emergency Funding in Next COVID Legislation

April 23, 2020

Economic shutdown increases need, eligibility for academic and financial support for many more low-income students

The non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) has asked Congress for $450 million emergency funding for federal TRIO programs in the next COVID aid legislative package. COE has for nearly 40 years advocated on behalf of federal TRIO programs, which provide academic and financial counseling support to more than 800,000 first-generation/low-income students, students with disabilities, veteran students and unemployed adults.

The funding would support the country’s most vulnerable low-income students and their families, from middle school through college, through the immediate COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, emergency funds would:

  • Expand current TRIO services to serve an additional 330,000 first-generation and low-income students, students with disabilities, and unemployed adults facing the disruption and economic shock of the COVID-19 crisis;
  • Target increases for federal Educational Opportunity Centers and Talent Search programs to help unemployed adults and low-income students learn how college can improve their economic situation, and
  • Broaden access to connectivity and technology to help low-income students connect for online coursework and support. The abrupt shift to online learning has disconnected many from their education because of a lack of technology or easy access to the Internet. Giving low-income students these tools will become ever more important as the crisis continues.

COE points out that TRIO staff (who work on college campuses under normal circumstances) remain in contact with their students on and off college campuses and are a great resource to reach students. Because federal grant agreements with these colleges and agencies are already in place, any technology support could be delivered to these students and their families immediately.

“Without emergency intervention for TRIO, this generation of existing and prospective students is at risk of permanently losing a higher level of education,” said Maureen Hoyler, COE president. “It is critically important TRIO receives additional resources to ensure students maintain academic standing and continue enrollment throughout the next several months and in the fall despite the severe disruptions in their academic and personal lives as a result of the public health crisis.”


Federal TRIO Program Capacity Increases — $250 million

All TRIO Programs — $164 million would increase capacity by 15 percent for all TRIO programs to serve an additional 330,000 low-income, first-generation students, students with disabilities, veterans, and unemployed adults. Immediate investment in academic tutoring and counseling, peer mentoring, and financial literacy will yield long-term dividends for individual students and their families. The emergency funding request will help assure that TRIO will help students absorb the economic shock of this crisis. The request includes targeted increases for the following two far-reaching TRIO programs with a competition scheduled in FY21:

  • Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC): $32 million for EOC would increase program capacity by more than 50 percent to enable more than 144,000 additional unemployed and low-income adults will earn their GEDs, obtain guidance in completing financial aid and college admissions applications, and receive financial and career counseling. EOC already has a tremendous impact for its nearly 200,000 participants annually. This request would enable EOC to do more during this crisis.
  • Talent Search: $54 million for Talent Search would increase capacity by 25 percent and enable an additional 139,000 low-income, first-generation middle and high school students to prepare for and apply to college. The abrupt closure of schools this spring has disrupted education for millions. Ensuring that students do not fall behind and continue to prepare for college will require that TRIO programs and personnel take immediate deliberate and targeted action.

Technology Support for TRIO Students and Families: $200 million would allow TRIO students to gain broadband access, hardware (laptops/tablets), and software to continue academic work and support services online. The emergency request would provide home internet and laptops for the approximately 45 percent of TRIO students who lack such critical resources. Low-income and first-generation students who do not have internet access or laptops in their homes are at a distinct disadvantage in continuing their education online, which schools and colleges across the country now require. Many are attempting to complete assignments from a mobile phone in the parking lot of a coffee shop. Students in rural communities have even fewer options.