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TRIO History

History of the Federal TRIO Programs

The history of TRIO is progressive. Upward Bound (UB), the first of the TRIO programs, began as a pilot project authorized by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to encourage low-income youths to complete high school and prepare for college. A year later, Talent Search (TS) was created as part of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to assist students applying for newly authorized federal financial aid for postsecondary education.

The TRIO name itself was born four years later when the Higher Education Act of 1965 was amended in 1968 to include the Special Services for Disadvantaged Students program—what is now called Student Support Services (SSS). Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services formed a trio of federal programs designed to foster increased educational opportunity and attainment. Upward Bound and Talent Search focused on college preparation and admission, while Student Support Services helped eligible students stay in college until they earned a college degree.

Since 1968, the TRIO programs have been expanded to provide a wider range of services. Today, nine TRIO programs are included under the TRIO umbrella. The 1972 amendments to the Higher Education Act created Educational Opportunity Centers (EOCs) to help adults select a post-secondary education program and obtain financial aid. Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) was initiated as part of the Upward Bound program to serve returning Vietnam Veterans in 1976. Amendments in 1986 added the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program (MCN) to foster doctoral degree attainment by students from underrepresented segments of society. In 1990, the U.S. Department of Education created the Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) program to address the need for specific instruction in the fields of mathematics and science.

In addition to these seven TRIO programs that offer direct services to program participants, the U.S. Congress also authorized two programs focused specifically on improving the design and administration of TRIO services. The 1976 education amendments authorized the Training Program for Federal TRIO Programs (TR), initially known as the Training Program for Special Programs Staff and Leadership Personnel. The 1998 amendments to the Higher Education Act established the TRIO Dissemination Partnership Program (TDP) to encourage the replication of successful practices of TRIO programs. And finally, the 2001 Appropriations Act amended the SSS program to permit the use of program funds for direct financial assistance (grant aid) for current SSS participants who are receiving Federal Pell Grants.

The legislative requirements for all of the TRIO programs can be found in the Higher Education Act of 1965, Title IV, Part A, Subpart 2. The requirements for the SSS Grant Aid can be found in the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 (Public Law 106-554).

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Last updated: 7/19/2021