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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


UCM Student Success Stories Emerge as Nation Observes 50 Years of TRIO

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Feb. 24, 2015) – In February, a month where Valentine’s Day, United States Presidents, and even causes like heart awareness are observed, an event such as National TRIO Day may have gone unnoticed by many people.  If you are one the hundreds of University of Central Missouri students and alumni who benefitted from these federally funded programs, you likely discovered what TRIO means to students’ success in college and in life.

A member of the U.S. Marine Corps, John Morgan is a 2004 UCM graduate who says he initially struggled in college and was behind his peers academically. With the help of TRIO’s-Student Support Services (SSS) program, however, he went on to graduate with a high GPA, and eventually became a military intelligence officer. He’s not only traveled the world, but along the way, he has briefed generals on world events, and met a number of American dignitaries - people with names such as Hilary Clinton, John McCain and Donald Rumsfield.

“The reason I’ve traveled these distant lands and have had these unique experiences is because I’ve been highly recommended by my superior officers. These experiences can be contributed significantly to what the TRIO program provided me,” Morgan notes. “I really don’t know what would have come of me if this program never existed.”

Student Support Services is one of two TRIO programs at UCM and one of seven nationally that provide direct services to disadvantaged students, according to Mary Alice Lyon, a UCM alumna who serves as  TRIO director. TRIO programs are available to help first-generation, low-income, and disability-challenged college students with academic need.

Lyon notes that near the end of February each year, TRIO Day is observed as a way to thank American taxpayers for supporting efforts to help qualified TRIO participants to earn their bachelor’s degrees. Although a formal celebration event was not planned at UCM this academic year, the federal TRIO programs are commemorating the 50th anniversary since the first TRIO program, Upward Bound, was made possible through the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.

At UCM, TRIO makes a variety of opportunities available to help students succeed in their college education. This includes free credit courses in math, writing, study techniques and college strategies, as well as academic coaching in high-risk courses, comprehensive advisement, and access to technology. Since 2001, UCM also has provided about $343,000 in supplemental grant aid to assist qualified TRIO students with funding their education.

Nationally, less than 10 percent of disadvantaged students earn a bachelor’s degree without assistance. Lyon says TRIO’s goal is to help at least 35 percent of students who begin the program to graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years, although another 5 percent who don’t graduate within that time period usually go on to complete their degree. Reasons for extra time spent in obtaining an undergraduate diploma relate to some of the special characteristics of TRIO program participants.

 “Low-income students often can’t keep up with the burden of a financial aid payback, so they may have to drop out for a while and work, and some may even have kids at home. First-generation college students may not understand what is expected of them, so they may need to take a break and get their lives back together and then come back to college. Other students may be disability challenged,” she said. “So some of the reasons why these students qualify for TRIO programs are also some of the reasons why they can’t complete a college education in four years.”

UCM depends on federal funding to keep TRIO programs in operation, and this spring the university is submitting a proposal for a competitive grant that would give the institution five more years of support. Since the university first began receiving TRIO-SSS funding in 1978, total federal grant support is approximately $7.4 million, Lyon says.

Such support makes it possible for many students who may otherwise have not succeeded in college to graduate and achieve successful careers. A number of these students’ success stories, including John Morgan’s, were featured in a “50th Anniversary Fact Sheet” created by the U.S. Department of Education to highlight outstanding TRIO participants.

Among the featured TRIO graduates from UCM is Tauni Mcintosh Fort, who is working at a youth home in Grandview, and has secured thousands of dollars in grants for services and shelter to help homeless people in her community. She has been pursuing graduate study having not only benefitted from SSS opportunities but through the other TRIO initiative, the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares disadvantaged students for doctoral study. Fort hopes to eventually own her own psychology practice.

“TRIO not only helped me succeed, but excel,” she says. “I know I could not have done it without TRIO.”

 Wendy Raulie, a mother of four, also went on to use SSS advisement and tutoring services as an undergraduate at UCM, and participated in the McNair Scholars Program before she left UCM with both a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in college student personnel administration.

As she notes, “At UCM, the SSS professionals often say, ‘Once TRIO, always TRIO.’ That motto of continuous and dependable support helped me through a lot of hard times and gave me the confidence to earn two degrees.”

Like the growing amounts of  financial support for TRIO that comes with each successful bid for federal grant funding, so goes the number of students who will benefit from this much-needed program and the success stories these future graduates can share.