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TRiO student support services.


TRiO support program receives five-year grant renewal

Underserved Colorado Mesa University students will continue to have an incredible resource available to them for the next five years. This summer, the U.S. Department of Education renewed funding for CMU’s TRiO Student Support Services program. The program provides academic support, financial planning assistance and personal and professional enrichment to about 150 bachelor degree-seeking students who are either first-generation students, meet income verifications or have a documented disability.

“We are a progressive program, so when [students] come in we really try to focus on getting their academic footing … and once they have all of that figured out we work with them on leadership skills and career development,” said program director Melissa Calhoon. “When they get out of here they’re pretty polished.”

TRiO staff applied for the grant renewal in February, submitting an 85-page document demonstrating need for the program, a sound implementation plan and a strategy for measuring its effectiveness. Federal reviewers gave the grant a perfect score and CMU’s grant was renewed in July. “I was so thankful,” Calhoon said. “It was a very competitive cycle this time around, and I think that really is a testament to the quality of the program.”

Each year, program staff assess student retention from fall semester to fall semester, ensuring that students are staying in school and progressing at a stable pace. They also analyze graduation rates over a six-year period and participants’ academic standing. Calhoon said it looks like this fall’s retention rate will be around 85 percent.

Students in TRiO have developed a strong community, which is one factor accounting for the high retention rate. Many of the participants who are juniors and seniors now serve as peer coaches and tutors for the underclassmen in the program. “We had a student get sick and people cooked and brought food over,” Calhoon said. “We have some single parents in this group and I’ve seen people bring in bags of clothes to pass on to somebody else’s children.”

After struggling a little with recruitment early on, the program now sees participants bringing in their friends and family members. To keep up with the growing interest, TRiO continues to expand its programming. Calhoon is in the process of hiring a half-time advisor to help with enrichment activities and she hopes to start a TRiO club for students who are interested in helping.

The grant renewal was exciting for TRiO staff and participants, Calhoon said. “I think [TRiO] is a great fit for CMU,” she said.
For the 2010–2015 grant cycle, the United States Department of Education funds Colorado Mesa University at 96 percent at $971,571. The remaining four percent is non-federal funding from CMU, at $35,998.

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