ISU TRIO Services recently refunded their Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math and Science grants. The Upward Bound grant, which is the longest running grant at ISU was awarded $1.3 million worth of funding, while the UBMS, which focuses on students with an interest in earning a STEM degree, received $1.85 million worth of funding.
The TRIO Program is so named because it used to consist of three programs: Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services. However, according to Sari Byerly, executive director of TRIO Access and Opportunity Programs, there are now eight different types of grants. However, Upward Bound and UBMS remain some of the biggest and most highly funded services offered by TRIO.
Byerly initially applied for the UBMS grant for the first time when she started in 2012. This is only the second cycle of the UBMS grant, in comparison to the nearly 50 years the Upward Bound grant has been running. Each of the grants however received a 2.5 percent increase from the previous year’s funds, said Byerly.
Both Upward Bound and UBMS are pre-collegiate programs, which assist first generation, limited-income students beginning as early as ninth grade.
“Ideally these students stay with us for all four years of high school,” Byerly said. “That’s when the program works best.”
The students receive academic help such as after school tutoring and grade checks from the TRIO staff. Additionally, they participate in a seven week residential program in the summer, where they work on college prep and, in the case of upper level students, dual credit coursework.
Byerly said the summer program is especially important to students, as it give them the opportunity to experience what it will be like to actually go to college and live on campus.
“Even if students can’t afford to live [in the dorms] when they get to college, they’ll have had that experience with the summer program, and they’ll have been able to have that traditional college experience,” she said.
The two grants combine serve 150 students and Byerly said around 110 usually attend the summer program.
However, in order to maintain funding, the grants must meet a wide variety of objectives. 80 percent of participants must have above a 2.5 average GPA; 90 percent of students must have achieved proficient or higher on standardized tests; and a certain percentage of students must receive their four year college degree within six years, to name a few.
According to Byerly, these objectives are in place in order to ensure the student’s successful transition from high school to college.
“We’re trying to make sure they’re successful in college,” she said. “For example, standardized tests don’t mean everything, but teaching them the skills to pass those tests is very valuable.
So far, the program has seen a high level of success. 85 percent of students that graduated last year enrolled in college for the fall semester, and Byerly said a high percentage of those students enrolled at ISU.
Additionally, former recipients of the grants that are now ISU students often serve as college student mentors that visit high schools to share their story and act as advisors to those students currently receiving TRIO services.
“When someone can say ‘I’ve been there, I had that experience,’ I think that means a lot to the students,” Byerly said.
The Upward Bound grant serves American Falls, Aberdeen, Pocatello, Century and Highland, while the UBMS serves Shelley, Firth, Idaho Falls and Bonneville.
According to Byerly, she wanted to implement the UBMS grant in that area because there was a significant lack of services there prior. She added that the Upward Bound grant used to include more schools, but was cut down because only a couple students from each school could participate.
“Even though we can’t necessarily serve students once they’re college students, ideally we’ve given them the skills that they need,” Byerly said. “That’s why these programs are very academic and focus on the basic skills.”