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Student aid programs receive federal funding help

Monday, February 11, 2019 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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TRIO programs at The University of Texas at Arlington received $200,000 in supplemental grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support STEM education and student access to UTA.

TRIO programs provide pre-college support to students throughout North Texas. Program participants include veterans, first-generation students, low-income students and students with disabilities.

TRIO pre-college staff members

UTA TRIO programs received supplemental grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education recently.

“UTA has a great track record of support that brings more students into higher education,” said Troy Johnson, vice president for enrollment management. “These TRIO programs make all the difference.”

The federal TRIO programs are outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from traditionally under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes programs that target and assist students through an academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs. More than 840,000 students — from sixth-graders to college graduates — are served by more than 2,900 programs nationally.

TRIO pre-college programs were first funded at UTA through the Upward Bound program in 1982. Eight additional competitive grants have been awarded to the University since then for continued funding. Most recently in 2017, the Upward Bound Math and Science program in Dallas was funded.

For Sergio Gutierrez, a 2014 UTA mechanical engineering graduate who now works at Lockheed Martin, the positive results from the Upward Bound program were substantial.

“I always considered myself a hard-working and bright student,” Gutierrez said. “Upward Bound continued to promote those good habits and traits and built on them. They helped me with whatever questions I had and advice leading into college. As a first generation American this was key because no one in my family had gone to college in America before me. My parents do have degrees but in Mexico and the process there is different.”

Gutierrez said Upward Bound helped him earn a four-year scholarship and find funding for two UTA summer classes covered by the program.

“I wasn’t as worried about the finance of school because of grants and that financial aid. Overall, Upward Bound was a great support system, similar to a family. It provides a cultural enrichment of activities via trips and field work to other parts of the country during the summer program.”

In TRIO, each student participant works with a student development specialist to explore his or her current academic needs and the resources available, then develops a plan of action. The specialists are knowledgeable of UTA’s and other colleges’ and universities’ requirements and expectations. They help the participants find solutions to problems they may encounter.

“The coaching and mentoring these participants receive are individualized,” said Lisa Thompson, senior director for pre-college programs. “One student might need more help in the academic realm. Another might need more help in finances for college. Still another might require personal and social coaching.”

In addition to coaching, forums are held on academic and life-skills learning, financial education and other important topics. Finally, participants are prepared for university rigors through peer-assisted study sessions and tutoring.

“Our staff has a real heart for the students served by the TRIO programs,” Thompson said. “You can see that in the positive results we get with our participants. Many of them go on to earn advanced degrees. That helps them. It helps UTA. But, more importantly, it helps society.”