I, along with over 1,000 Minnesota residents, signed a petition in July 2011 addressed to Congressman and House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), asking him to renew his commitment to TRiO programs in Minnesota. We signed because we are concerned for the future of thousands of low-income students in Minnesota and across the nation. We signed because we were worried that Congressman Kline, like many others in Congress, was forgetting about the critical importance of TRiO to low-income students across the country.
As supporters of the Federal TRiO Programs, which provide academic, financial, and social services to low-income students—from grade school to graduate school, from unemployed workers to military veterans—who aspire to be the first in their families to earn college degrees, I am concerned by the federal government’s declining investment in education generally and TRiO programs in particular. We know there is a direct correlation between the federal investment in education and its priority in the hearts and minds of our legislators. Given the recent $26.6 million cut to the federal TRiO programs this past spring, we are deeply concerned for the future of thousands of low-income students in Minnesota and across the nation.
TRiO serves 15,420 students in Minnesota—including more than 1,500 students in the Second District alone. While the individuals served by TRiO face tremendous barriers to educational success, TRiO programs provide substantive positive effects on student success. For example, national data indicate that the college entrance rate for students from low-income, first-generation backgrounds who are not served by TRiO is less than 33 percent. By comparison, the average rate of Minnesota TRiO students entering college after high school is 70 percent. Similarly, in recent years, the six-year graduation and transfer rates for low-income college students served by TRiO are more than three times the national average for low-income students (64 percent vs. 20 percent). Across the board, TRiO programs work!
Despite its success, TRiO has been forced to decrease its student numbers by nearly 37,000 over the last five years. Due to the drastic cuts in the recent most budget agreement, we will lose an additional 25,000 students this year alone. Continued cuts would reverse progress on improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps, while decreasing high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment and college completion rates.
In a recent meeting with local TRiO constituents, John Kline expressed strong support and renewed his commitment to TRiO. He believes that TRiO is a program that works.
I hope that his colleagues in Congress will follow suit and protect these valuable programs, which, in turn, will benefit all Americans by building a more educated and innovative workforce.
Sarah Doman-Flygare, Student Support Services Director, , Inver Grove Heights