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The Prosper Act and TRIO students

February 6, 2018 Dr. Kim Grieve University of South Dakota

The Federal TRIO programs began in 1964 with the Upward Bound program, a program for low-income, first-generation college students that was part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and part of the Johnson administration’s larger War on Poverty. Talent Search and Student Services programs were added over the next several years, leading to the term “TRIO” to describe the set of programs. Following the success of these three original programs under the Higher Education Act (HEA), several other federal TRIO programs were added to serve low income, first-generation, and disabled students. TRIO programs now include: Educational Opportunity Centers, Training Program for Federal TRIO programs, Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Programs, and the Upward Bound Math/Science program, which was added by the Department of Education in 1990 to increase low-income student participation in math and science programs. TRIO programs currently serve 790,000 under-represented students.

The “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity” Act (PROSPER Act), the HEA reauthorization bill proposed by the House Education and Workforce Committee would negatively impact TRIO students and other low-income students by eliminating the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Most concerning for TRIO programs and other low-income students are these financial aid implications. The current federal loan program would be removed and replaced by the ONE Loan program which would eliminate origination fees and Federal subsidies for in-school interest. So according to NASPA, a student who would borrow $19,000 will see a 44% increase in their student loan pay off. Additionally, Institutions may limit borrowing for some programs/students.

The PROSPER Act would also injure institutions as there would be a 20% match of non-federal dollars for TRIO programs. Many TRIO programs are housed within institutions with budgets that mirror the underserved populations they serve; as such, such a large institutional match in already tight institutional budgets would be a major obstacle.  The proposed PROSPER Act is in its infancy, but what has been proposed by the House was completed very quickly behind closed doors and pushed through to the full House.

If you are concerned about the success of TRIO and other resources for low income students please mark your calendar for the 2018 NASPA Hill Days HEA Reauthorization live briefing session on April 12 and Hill Days and National Student Affairs Day of Action on July 16-17 in Washington, DC.