LEWISTON, Idaho – Lewis-Clark State College received notification from the United States Department of Education (DOE) that its federal grant renewal application for the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program, a program which has been at the college for 32 years, was not supported. As a result, the TRIO SSS program will be discontinued starting on Sept. 1, college officials have announced.
Every five years, higher education institutions across the nation submit grant proposals to the DOE to compete for available TRIO funding. The proposals are scored by peer reviewers and then ranked by their overall scores. LC State submitted its grant proposal in February but recently learned its proposal wasn’t ranked high enough to be funded for the next five years. The current grant funding will end on Aug. 31.
LC State received $374,551 per year during the last five-year grant, which funded the TRIO Student Support Services program that helps LC State students who are first generation, low-income, and/or students with disabilities. Services include assisting with study skills, time management, note-taking, test-taking strategies, academic and career advising, peer tutoring, and monitoring of academic progress. Each academic year, approximately 165 students use TRIO Student Support Services at LC State.
Traci Birdsell, senior director of Educational Opportunity Grant Programs, who oversees TRIO Student Support Services, said she was surprised to see the LC program not among the group to receive funding. Birdsell said she won’t learn LC State’s score or see the comments from the peer reviewers until later this month.
The program has fit well with the college because around 75 percent of LC State’s student body are first generation college students and 65 percent of first generation students made up the fall 2019 honor roll. Birdsell said LC State’s TRIO students have higher overall retention and graduation rates than the college’s overall average.
“LC is very friendly to first generation college students and obviously we are doing something right,” Birdsell said. “Our goal now is to help to continue on with some of the proven services that help with student retention.”
As a result of the lost funding, LC State will make changes to continue some services previously provided by SSS. Freshmen who were assigned an advisor from TRIO will now be assigned an advisor from the college’s Advising Center, while returning students will have the option of having a co-advisor, and also can receive peer mentor help. The SSS tutoring lab will remain open and a staff of trained student tutors will be available to provide academic support.
The lack of funding also means three staff positions will be eliminated along with the loss of about $10,000 in student scholarships. One staff member has accepted another position on campus.
“The big loss is the sense of community that the program provides,” Birdsell said. “A lot of our students see the program as an extended family and enjoy the support they receive from staff and each other.”
Andy Hanson, vice president for Student Affairs, observed that many of the best practices in SSS have been incorporated in the college’s student retention and completion efforts. “While we’re disappointed by this news, our commitment to supporting our students is as strong as ever,” Hanson said. “We will do all we can to ensure our SSS students have the support and encouragement they need to complete their studies with distinction.”
Birdsell said the earliest the college can apply again for grant funding is 2025.