About TRIO

Programs for Students of Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Our nation has asserted a commitment to providing educational opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, ethnic background or economic circumstance.

In support of this commitment, Congress established a series of programs to help low-income Americans enter college, graduate and move on to participate more fully in America’s economic and social life. These Programs are funded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and are referred to as the TRIO Programs (initially just three programs). While student financial aid programs help students overcome financial barriers to higher education, TRIO programs help students overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education.

The name “TRIO” was coined in the late 1970’s when the first three programs were established.  Upward Bound, the oldest of the programs, was created by the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act. Educational Talent Search was established by the Higher Education Act of 1965, and Higher Education Amendments of 1968 added Special Services for Disadvantaged Students (now theStudent Support Services Program).  The Higher Education Act Amendments of 1972 added a fourth program – Educational Opportunity Centers – but the “TRIO” acronym continued.  The fifth program is the Training Program for Special Programs Staff and Leadership Personnel and was established by the Education Amendments of 1976.  The Higher Education Amendments of 1986 authorized the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.  Funds were first appropriated for the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program in FY 1989.

The legislative requirements for the TRIO programs can be found in the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, Title IV Subpart 4.

The primary purpose of the TRIO programs is to prepare disadvantaged persons for successful entry into, retention, and completion of post-secondary education. In general, these programs identify low-income and first-generation or (potential first-generation) college students who show potential for success and provide them with encouragement, support, and assistance. TRIO services are designed to improve academic performance, increase student motivation, and facilitate transitions from one level of education to the next.    All funds are awarded through a competitive discretionary grant process.

Who is Served?

As mandated by Congress, two-thirds of the students served must come from families with incomes under $24,000, where neither parent graduated from college. Over 1,900 TRIO Programs currently serve nearly 700,000 low-income Americans between the ages of 11 and 27. Many programs serve students in grades six through 12. Thirty-nine percent of TRIO students are White, 36 percent are African-American, 16 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Native American and 4 percent are Asian-American. Sixteen thousand TRIO students are disabled.

TRIO incorporates eight major programs for Students of Disadvantaged Backgrounds:Educational Talent Search (ETS), Upward Bound (UB), Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS), Student Support Services (SSS), Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC), Training Program for Special Programs Staff and Leadership Personnel (TR) and the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program(McNair).  Collectively, these programs have commonly been referred to as “TRIO” or “the TRIP programs”.

Educational Talent Search

Educational Talent Search programs serve young people in grades six through twelve. In addition to counseling, participants receive information about college admissions requirements, scholarships and various student financial aid programs. This early intervention program helps people from families with incomes under $24,000 (where neither parent graduated from college) to better understand their educational opportunities and options. Over 323,541 Americans are enrolled in 361 Talent Search TRIO programs.

Upward Bound

Upward Bound helps young students to prepare for higher education. Participants receive instruction in literature, composition, mathematics and science on college campuses after school, on Saturdays and during the summer. Currently, Over 772 programs are in operation throughout the United States.

Upward Bound Mathematics & Science

Upward Bound Mathematics & Science helps students from low-income families to strengthen math and science skills. In addition, students learn computer technology as well as English, foreign language and study skills. Over 124 programs are serving students throughout the country.

Veterans Upward Bound

Veterans Upward Bound programs provide intensive basic skills development and short-term remedial courses for military veterans to help them successfully transition to postsecondary education. Veterans learn how to secure support from available resources such as the Veterans Administration, veterans associations, and various state and local agencies that serve veterans. Approximately over 4,200 participants are served annually.

Student Support Services

Student Support Services helps low-income students to stay in college until they earn their baccalaureate degrees. Participants, who include disabled college students, receive tutoring, counseling and remedial instruction. Students are now being served at over 796 colleges and universities nationwide.

Educational Opportunity Centers

Educational Opportunity Centers located throughout the country, primarily serve displaced or underemployed workers from families with incomes under $24,000. These Centers help people to choose a college and a suitable financial aid program. There are 82 Educational Opportunity Centers in America serving over 158,036 individuals.

Dr. Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement

Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement programs are designed to encourage low-income students and minority undergraduates to consider careers in college teaching as well as prepare for doctoral study. Students who participate in this program are provided with research opportunities and faculty mentors. This program was named in honor of the astronaut that died in the 1986 space-shuttle explosion. Currently there are over 156 programs, serving 3,641 students.

“Although 11 million Americans critically need to access the TRIO Programs, federal funding permits fewer than 6.5 percent of eligible youth and adults to be served.”

If you would like more information about TRIO’s history, go to the Council for Opportunity in Education web site: What is TRIO? or the Department of Education’s website.
Regional Associations