Kent TRIO programs face national budget cuts

Amy Cooknick


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National budget cuts to the Federal TRIO Programs are being felt at Kent State.

TRIO, a national, federally funded college preparation program, has been in place at Kent State in one form or another since 1971. Now the program is facing the worst budget cuts since its inception, losing $25 million in funding nationwide since spring 2011.

TRIO is the umbrella program for several Kent State organizations, including Upward Bound and Upward Bound PREP Academy, among others.

Dana Lawless-Andric, director of Pre-College and TRIO Upward Bound Programs at Kent State, said all five of the university’s TRIO Programs are directly impacted by national cuts to the budget.

“Our programs at Kent State have sustained a 3.1 percent cut, and federal TRIO programs nationally have lost over 100,000 students due to the cuts,” Lawless-Andric said. “If funding is not restored, we could lose one in three Upward Bound Programs nationally.”

TRIO is an after-school program that aims to increase enrollment, retention and graduation rates for first-generation and low-income high school students as they transition into college and proceed through college graduation.

“The main thing (Upward Bound) gave me was the realization that college was something truthful,” said Tameka Ellington, Upward Bound alumna and assistant professor for fashion design and merchandising. “Nobody in my family had gone off to college before, and so I didn’t have anyone in my family that I could actually talk to about college. So I can say Upward Bound was the true factor in showing me that college was a real place and that people actually did go to college.”

Thomas Jefferson, assistant director of Upward Bound Classic, said about 99 percent of Ohio Upward Bound students graduate high school, compared with the state average of 85 percent. Once Upward Bound students get into college, about 75 percent go on to get a degree.

Bonnie Richardson-Berry, associate director of the Upward Bound PREP Academy, said the TRIO Programs at Kent State are funded through five grants from the U.S. Department of Education. A super committee within this department is responsible for deciding how grants are distributed throughout the national education system. Although TRIO accounts for only about 1 percent of the U.S. Department of Education’s total budget, the program is being cut to save money in the poor economic climate, Richardson-Berry said.

At Kent State, cuts to TRIO mean saving money wherever possible. Richardson-Berry said this includes partnering with PARTA to provide students with transportation to and from TRIO programming, downsizing the number of student employees within TRIO and relying on local restaurants to donate meals for students in after-school programs.

“It’s forcing us to make stronger community relationships,” Richardson-Berry said. “It’s just made us work harder and be more focused on including community partners to help us. We’re more conscious of what we spend. So it’s hindered us in some ways, but I think it’s allowed us to be more creative in how we accumulate resources.”

Richardson-Berry said TRIO professionals at Kent State have been attending national and regional conferences to advocate for TRIO since the budget was first cut in Spring 2011. However, she said TRIO parents and students have the most potential to influence decisions on the program.

“I would love to see our alumni and our current Upward Bound students organize themselves,” Richardson-Berry said. “We’re talking about a movement that has changed the lives of millions of people, and it’s slowly being stripped away. There’s a need for the service to continue; we just need to impress that upon our politicians.”

Jefferson said losing TRIO would not only hurt the students and families directly involved but also the university as a whole.

“If the TRIO Programs were to not exist at Kent State, it would be a major hit,” Jefferson said. “About 60 percent of our students end up coming to Kent State. So that would be much less students that are able to come to Kent State and pay tuition.”

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].