Washington State University is expanding its efforts to work with students from low-income backgrounds after recently being awarded grants for three new TRIO programs.
The programs, which will be on the Vancouver and Spokane campuses, were approved at the end of September and will be funded through Talent Search grants. Talent Search is a U.S. Department of Education TRIO program that identifies and assists middle and high school students who have the potential but not necessarily the means to participate in higher education.
The funding will bring the total number of TRIO programs throughout the WSU system to 18.
“The addition of these new programs really underscores the collective commitment across WSU to reach out to these underserved students,” said Lucila Loera, executive director of the Office for Access and Opportunity. “It’s a signal of our long-term commitment to these populations, to help them consider and ideally be successful in seeking higher education.”
Creating a pathway
The impetus behind the grant proposals was to help realize the land-grant and access mission of WSU across the state. That means focusing on students who “have not been properly served in the past,” said Jim Mohr, the vice chancellor of the Division of Student Affairs on the Spokane campus.
“Post-secondary education is vital in terms of creating a pathway for those students to carry out their passions and interests academically so they can get into careers where they can be successful,” Mohr said. “This is the beginning of that journey.”
The new programs will let the Spokane and Vancouver campuses serve as many as 1,500 low-income and potentially first-generation middle and high school students. Mohr and Felix Braffith, the director of student equity, success, and inclusive excellence on the Vancouver campus, said working with underserved students in middle and high school helps create opportunities for their success.
“TRIO programs have demonstrated for over 50 years the ability to positively impact the college-going trajectory for first-generation and low-income communities across the country,” Braffith said. “It is an honor for WSU-Vancouver to join the TRIO family within the WSU system.”
Building relationships and supporting success
Through the new programs, WSU will partner with schools in Spokane and Vancouver to provide resources and support for students.
In Vancouver, which received two grants totaling $2.75 million over the five-year grant cycle, funds will be used to create programs around STEM readiness and increasing college access. Eligible students will participate in college readiness programming during high school that includes college- and career-related seminars and workshops, in-school advocacy, and academic support, culminating in a bridge program for graduating seniors at WSU-Vancouver.
The funds will support six new full-time positions on the Vancouver campus, all of which will help build and support these programs success over the course of the grant.
“We’ll be on site at our partner schools Fort Vancouver and Hudson Bay almost every day advising, supporting, and connecting students with resources and mentors,” Braffith said. “That was the aim of our proposals – to have the resources and personnel to expand to the largest schools in our area so we can provide a foundation for students to be successful.”
The Spokane program received $1.38 million over a five-year period and will focus on encouraging middle and high school students to complete secondary school and enroll post-secondary education. Spokane will be operating in four partner schools: Shaw Middle School, Glover Middle School, Lewis and Clark High School, and Shadle Park High School.
Grant funds will support one part-time and three full-time positions that will provide connections to high-quality academic tutoring, academic advising, activities, and mentoring, with the goal of increasing persistence rates, graduation rates, and post-secondary education enrollment.
“We’re all working toward building strong relationships with students and providing enough support that going to college will naturally be the next step for them,” Braffith said.
Braffith and Mohr expect their respective programs to begin this fall. To learn more about TRIO, visit the website.