WSU marks 40th anniversary of TRiO programs

Washington State University senior Patricia Madrigal often thinks back to her childhood when her parents labored in the apple orchards near the Tri-Cities. They wanted a better life for Patricia and her siblings, so they pushed them to study hard and prepare for college.

Madrigal will graduate in May with a degree in sociology and become the first female in her extended family to earn a college degree. When asked what helped her achieve success at WSU, she gives much of the credit to the Student Support Services program.

SSS belongs to the TRiO family of special services funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Originally, three programs were created when Congress passed the Higher Education Act of 1965, but today five programs fall under the TRiO umbrella.

In addition to SSS, the TRiO family includes Educational Opportunity Centers, Talent Search, the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program and Upward Bound. These programs seek to offer assistance to first generation, economically disadvantaged or disabled students.

Nationwide, 2,700 versions of these five programs are operating, and they’re serving 873,000 students.

The 40th anniversary of the establishment of TRiO programs will be celebrated nationally on Feb. 26. WSU TRiO program coordinators will start the celebration early with a series of local activities.

WSU’S SSS, established in 2001, was the second TRiO program on campus. The Graduate School landed the McNair program in 1999. It teaches students the value of a graduate education and helps them prepare for graduate school admission. (Please see recent WSU Today article at

The most recent WSU TRiO offering, Upward Bound, was established in 2003 in Okanogan, Yakima and Ferry/Stevens counties to help high school students prepare for college.

Michelle Gordon, Upward Bound director for Yakima County, says almost 50 percent of the families in her area are low income, and many youth lack good role models.

“By showing students a way out of poverty, increasing self-esteem, counseling and assisting them in continuing their education, we encourage hope. We help students see that they do have other choices, healthy ones, and they are capable of success.”

Al Jamison, associate vice president for educational development, led the grant writing efforts that brought SSS and Upward Bound to campus. In evaluating the grant proposals, Jamison said, the Department of Education recognized the great need for these programs in Washington.

“Given how competitive these grants are, it is very rare that a single institution is able to garner more than one Upward Bound program during a single funding cycle.”

WSU got three.

Having a 40-year history of operation has allowed extensive study of the effectiveness of TRiO programs nationally. The Council for Opportunity in Education reports that students in Upward Bound programs are four times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree compared with other students with similar backgrounds. Participants in SSS programs are twice as likely to remain in college.

“Participating in the Student Support Services program has been a rewarding experience for me,” Madrigal says. “I took advantage of the tutoring offered, which helped me achieve grades of which I am very proud. The program taught me work ethic, responsibility and dedication needed to be successful in life.”

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