Colin Carlson counts the many ways the TRIO Student Support Services program helped him as a first-generation student at University of Wisconsin-Stout.
“It helped me be successful my first year,” said Carlson, a senior majoring in information and communication technologies. “If I hadn’t been a part of it, I’m not sure I would have made it to my senior year. I’ve made so many friends through the program. It made me less lonely. It opened the doors to how the university works and how to study the right way.”
Carlson, of Beloit, didn’t have the benefit of parents who attended college to help him understand financial aid and prepare for the college experience.
The TRIO SSS program stepped in to help Carlson overcome those obstacles and succeed.
UW-Stout has been awarded two, five-year continuation grants for the TRIO Student Support Services program through the U.S. Department of Education to help more UW-Stout students like Carlson.
The program serves first-generation students, students who meet low-income criteria and students with disabilities, said Angie Ruppe, director of TRIO SSS and Fostering Success, which provides guidance and resources for youth who have been in foster care, homeless or orphaned and have an interest in pursuing higher education.
The objectives of the TRIO are to increase the good academic standing, retention and graduation rates of students it serves.
Services include supplementing a variety of academic supports, such as an Individual Student Success Plan and assigned TRIO SSS adviser, access to a writing specialist and math specialist, financial literacy education and access to a financial literacy coach, peer tutoring, peer mentoring and leadership training and activities.
The TRIO SSS regular grant is a $370,687 annual award, and the TRIO SSS disabled grant is $294,698 a year, totaling more than $3.3 million for five years.
Each grant received perfect scores on the grant narratives and the prior experience points earned through achieving all project goals for the Department of Education over the last five years.
“That shows we are effective in what we do. When students participate in the TRIO SSS program, the impact is improved academic standing, retention and graduation,” Ruppe said.
In 2018-19, the TRIO disabled project served 166 students with disabilities, of which one-third also met low-income criteria.
A total of 85% of students persisted to the next academic year, 10% more than the program goal. Ninety percent of the students were in good academic standing; the goal is 85%. Half of the students graduated from a six-year cohort.
The regular project served 274 first-generation, low-income students and/or students with disabilities in 2018-19. Of those, 81% persisted to the next academic year, 91% were in good academic standing and 60% graduated from the six-year cohort.
“Education is the great equalizer,” Ruppe said. “We can give students access to higher education, but if they don’t provide the support needed it’s not a good opportunity.”
More than 59% of UW-Stout students qualify for one of the TRIO SSS programs. Students can receive services for up to six years.
Carlson is a peer mentor this year, helping other TRIO students and answering their questions. He also has worked on the TRIO website and enjoys being part of the TRIO team.
Carlson, who graduates in May, said the one-on-one tutoring in math and English helped him when he was starting at UW-Stout. His adviser helped introduce programs and careers when he wanted to change his major, also assisting him with academic needs.
He would encourage other students who qualify to take part in the TRIO program. “It will help you so much as you are starting college,” he said. “It will help you succeed at UW-Stout.”
Carlson chose UW-Stout because the programs fit what he wanted to study, and he liked the campus and town.
UW-Stout also offers an online Bachelor of Science in information and communication technologies and college credit for nontraditional education and experiences. The university has a Master of Science in information and communication technologies as well.
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