Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ floor remarks.
Washington, D.C. — In an effort to strengthen the federal TRIO Programs and improve their outreach to underserved youth, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Educational Opportunity and Success Act. Senator Collins, the co-chair of the Congressional TRIO Caucus, spoke from the Senate floor urging her colleagues to support this bipartisan bill.
Nationwide, TRIO Programs help 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. The Educational Opportunity and Success Act would reauthorize the TRIO Programs, eliminate several onerous and unnecessary requirements, and institute commonsense reforms to make it easier for educational institutions to reach students who would benefit from these programs.
“Congress created the TRIO Programs because it recognized that low-income, first-generation students often face significant financial and societal obstacles to accessing and achieving success in higher education,” said Senator Collins. “I have long supported the TRIO Programs and worked to ensure that they are reaching the students who most need them. These programs have changed the trajectory for first-generation students in Maine and across the country, opening the doors to the opportunities of higher education. I ask my colleagues to support this important legislation.”
“My parents always said—and I still believe—that public education is the great equalizer in this country,” said Senator Tester. “TRIO programs have a proven track record of breaking down barriers and helping to ensure Montanans from all backgrounds can access quality education. This bipartisan bill will reauthorize the TRIO program for five years, paving the way for young Montana leaders to succeed well into the future.”
“TRIO programs are critically important when it comes to giving students in West Virginia and across the country opportunities to pursue higher education,” Senator Capito said. “Not only do these programs help hardworking young men and women receive a high-quality education, but they also give them a chance to build a lifetime of success and achievement. I’m proud to reintroduce this bill, which will ensure that future students are able to access the opportunities provided by TRIO and improve the programs so others can achieve their goals.”
“The TRIO program helps students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for and succeed in higher education,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bipartisan legislation will make this program more accessible to students so that even more young people, regardless of where they come from, can get the support they need to pursue higher education and reach their full potential.”
“[The Council for Opportunity in Education] is delighted to support the Educational Opportunity and Success Act. This legislation takes important steps to simplify and streamline many aspects of the TRIO grant application process. It also promotes greater alignment between TRIO and other aid programs that support our nation’s neediest students. Taken together, these measures will reduce administrative burdens and ensure greater access for low-income students who aim to become the first members of their families to earn college degrees.”
The Educational Opportunity and Success Act would:
· Reauthorize funds for the TRIO Programs through 2027.
· Establish more reasonable guidelines for notice of pending grant competitions.
The bill would require the Department of Education to increase its notification period from 45 days to 90 days to help ensure that all prospective TRIO grant applicants have an adequate opportunity to submit a successful application.
· Remove administrative burdens to ease and update the application process.
The bill would direct that applications denied in error be funded directly out of funds reserved for administrative purposes.
· Institute common-sense guidelines for TRIO applications.
The bill would make permanent a new policy that was implemented after the Department of Education attempted to reject dozens of TRIO applications in 2017 for arbitrary, non-substantive formatting criteria, such as font size and line spacing. It would also institute a straightforward appeals process for minor errors.
· Ease administrative burdens in determining income eligibility.
The bill would allow TRIO administrators to work with colleges’ financial aid offices to more easily identify potential participants by virtue of their Pell-eligibility. Meanwhile, in middle and high schools, TRIO’s Talent Search and Educational Opportunity Centers programs would have the ability to serve all students at schools where more than 40 percent of attendees receive free or reduced-price lunch.
· Update TRIO eligibility criteria to reflect the most recent FAFSA requirements.
The bill would ensure that TRIO administrators do not have to consult multiple sources of data, but rather may use students’ most recently completed FAFSA to determine program eligibility.
· Require virtual training to reach more applicants.
The bill would require at least one virtual, interactive training for interested applicants, better ensuring that all areas of the country have the chance to access the TRIO programs.
· Provide greater flexibility for programs serving non-traditional students.
Recognizing that some students may not go on to higher education immediately after high school or earn a degree within 2 or 4 years, this bill would update criteria for several TRIO programs to provide greater flexibility to non-traditional students, including veterans.
· Increase student stipends, which have not been updated since 1980.
Click HERE to read the text of the Educational Opportunity and Success Act.