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Record 56 Bipartisan Senators Urge Congress to Prioritize Robust Funding for Federal TRIO Programs

July 8, 2021

The non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) announced today that a record 56 Senators joined a bipartisan “sign-on” letter urging the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee to prioritize robust funding for the Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) in Fiscal Year 2022.

Rooted in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and authorized by the Higher Education Act, TRIO programs provide academic support, personal mentoring and advising, as well as financial counseling to help first-generation and low-income students, as well as students with disabilities, military veterans, and other underrepresented students achieve their higher education goals.

“Across the nation, TRIO programs help to ensure that underserved students have equal access to a college education and the support they need to prepare for, succeed in, and graduate from higher education,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Co-Chair of the Congressional TRIO Caucus. “I have long supported the TRIO programs and worked to ensure that they are reaching the students who need them most. The record number of bipartisan Senators who signed our letter in support of TRIO is an encouraging sign of the Senate’s continued commitment to these programs. Robust funding will ensure that low-income and first-generation students can achieve their dream of earning a college degree and unlocking their full potential.”

“I’ve always believed that quality public education is the great equalizer in this country,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Co-Chair of the Congressional TRIO Caucus. “TRIO programs have a proven track record of helping students prepare for, excel in, and graduate from college. Ensuring our nation’s TRIO programs have the resources they need will help us continue to lift students up — no matter their background — and pave the way for our nation’s young leaders well into the future.”

With programs assisting students in virtually every pocket of the country, the breadth of TRIO’s reach manifests in the depth of its support across ideological lines. Support ranged from signers like former Republican Whip John Cornyn (D-TX) and Jim Risch (R-ID), who ranked among National Journal’s “15 Most Conservative Senators” to leading progressive Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL). First-generation status unites other TRIO supporters, including two freshmen Senators — first-generation college graduate Roger Marshall (R-KS) and the first TRIO alumnus to serve in the U.S. Senate, Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA). Despite their membership on the Committee, many members of the Senate Appropriations Committee signaled their support by signing the letter as well.

“The TRIO program is proven to help students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for and succeed in higher education,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). “I support this bipartisan effort to make a strong investment in the TRIO program so even more young people can get the support they need to pursue higher education and reach their full potential.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has challenged every stage of our nation’s education system, thus making the need for targeted investments in TRIO all the more urgent,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). “I urge the Committee to continue to prioritize TRIO funding to help ensure students are prepared for, persist in, and graduate from college.”

“As the first in my family to graduate college, I know the life-changing impact of education,” said Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). “Every student deserves the tools to succeed, and increased funding for federal TRIO programs would provide better access to education for more students. I will continue to fight for legislation like the College for All Act of 2021, which would provide $3 billion for TRIO programs and serve 2.2 million more students. Through investments in student support programs, we can give students from all walks of life the tools and support they need to succeed.”

“Federal TRIO programs have helped thousands of Kansans enter and complete their college education,” said Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS). “Through the various TRIO programs, a range of students, from military veterans, rural students, and low-income individuals, can receive assistance to progress through the academic pipeline, receiving the support and assistance they need to complete their studies. As a first generation college kid myself, I understand the challenge of working full time jobs while trying to balance the demands of academic life, and am proud to support TRIO programs.”

COE President Maureen Hoyler said, “TRIO is proof positive that our legislators can come together to assure educational opportunity will be in place for our nation’s low-income and first-generation youth and adult learners.”

For Fiscal Year 2022, President Biden proposed a $200 million funding increase for TRIO, for a total appropriation of $1.3 billion. If enacted by Congress, this increase has the potential to allow TRIO to provide approximately 150,000 more students with individualized college access and support services. This would bring the total number of low-income young people and adults aspiring to improve their lives and those of their families to nearly one million each year.

This record-setting bipartisan Senate letter follows a record-setting bipartisan letter in which 248 members of the House of Representatives Document is available for download (.pdf) signed on asking for a “robust increase” in TRIO funding.

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).

The full TRIO Programs Senate Funding Letter text and list of Senate signers by state can be found here Document is available for download (.pdf).