Collins, Merkley, Tester, Murkowski Urge Congressional Leaders to Support Vulnerable Students Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Bipartisan letter emphasizes need to increase funding for TRIO programs

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), andLisa Murkowski (R-AK), are leading a bipartisan group of 40 Senators in pressing congressional leadership to include significant funding for the Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) in any upcoming coronavirus relief package.  Senator Angus King (I-ME) co-signed the letter. 


The Senators’ letter comes as the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis continues to exacerbate existing inequities in education—from significant losses of income to a lack of access to tools, such as reliable Internet access, that are essential to participating in remote learning.


“Low-income students, students with disabilities, first-generation students, youth who are homeless, have limited English proficiency, and who are in foster care, students in rural communities, and military veterans all already face greater obstacles to their learning experiences and now are often encountering a more substantial impact from COVID-19,” the Senators wrote. “These students are at risk of falling through the cracks of our system and permanently losing a chance to pursue higher levels of education.”


“A significant increase in overall program capacity would allow significantly more vulnerable students to receive support that is critical to their success and to the economy’s revival, such as academic tutoring and counseling; financial literacy programs; assistance with postsecondary planning, college admissions applications, and career counseling; peer and adult mentoring; work-study opportunities; and connections to wrap-around services that make high school and college completion more likely,” the Senators continued.


Senators Collins, Merkley, Tester, Murkowski, and King were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Brian Schatz (D-HI), James Risch (R-ID), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AK), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). 


Click HERE to read the letter.




As the co-chair of the Congressional TRIO Caucus, Senator Collins has consistently worked to preserve these important programs.  Last year, Senators Collins and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation that would reauthorize the federal TRIO Programs through 2025 and make key reforms to make it easier to enroll students in the TRIO programs.


One of the provisions in Senator Collins’ bill would permanently prevent the situation the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) faced in 2017 when the Department of Education threatened to deny its application for Upward Bound due to a minor formatting issue. Senator Collins successfully urged the Department of Education to reverse its decision, protecting funding for UMPI.