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NIU earns federal grant to support low-income, first-generation students

September 9, 2020

Awarded a federal grant, NIU will bring back TRIO Student Support Services to empower first-generation students or those from low socio-economic backgrounds to develop the skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

NIU has earned $261,800 from the U.S. Department of Education to support the retention and graduation of 140 students annually through 2025. TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) will target students pursuing degrees in limited admission majors, such as Nursing, Accounting and Engineering.

“The TRIO SSS program at NIU provides vital services leading to the academic success of students from under-resourced communities who choose to enroll in some of the most demanding academic majors offered at our institution,” NIU President Lisa Freeman said.

“The program aligns with NIU’s mission and values to serve students from all backgrounds, provide all students with the information, tools and supports they need to succeed, and remove any barriers that disproportionately hinder the academic achievement of underserved populations.”

Students served by the TRIO program will be eligible for a variety of academic support services.

A collaboration between the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development and Academic Affairs, the program is specifically designed to reach students potentially not receiving the resources they need and deserve. Felicia Bohanon, the director of NIU’s Upward Bound Program since 1995, will take on an expanded role as executive director of TRIO SSS.

Identified and recruited with the help of the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office, along with NIU’s cultural resource centers, students will have direct access to all TRIO SSS has to offer, as well as complementary support services and resources already offered at NIU.

“I’m looking forward to working in Academic Affairs to not only support graduates of the NIU Upward Bound Program, but also Upward Bound and Talent Search graduates that come to NIU from high schools throughout the region,” Bohanon said.

“By working with ACCESS and PAL we will create a one-stop shop for first generation students coming from low socio-economic backgrounds. NIU’s TRIO SSS Program will create a wraparound academic support plan to ensure that students feel welcomed, valued, are retained and ultimately become Huskie graduates.”

More than 8,000 students from disadvantaged backgrounds were served by Student Support Services at NIU from 1971 until the program was defunded in 2015.

The demand for the program has never wavered, with more than half of NIU’s undergraduate students among the first generation in their family to attend a four-year college.

In a typical school year, more than 40% of NIU’s undergraduates will qualify for federal need-based Pell Grants, designed to help low-income students nationwide earn degrees.

“To that end, we are especially sensitive to underserved communities and traditionally underrepresented groups. At NIU, we also know it takes extra tenacity and determination to be a first-generation student. We are thrilled the U.S. Department of Education has recognized our efforts to provide the resources, support and tools necessary for students to succeed,” said Beth Ingram, executive vice president and provost. “The grant award is a confirmation of the high quality of academic resources delivered at NIU.”

 Students in the TRIO SSS Program will receive the following services and more:

  • Academic tutoring, supplemental instruction and study tables to support success in postsecondary courses.
  • A UNIV 101 section specifically for them. This elective, 1-credit, 16-week course is designed to help students adjust to NIU and develop the skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond.
  • Advice and assistance in postsecondary course selection, including learning and career interest assessment.
  • Information on federal student financial aid programs, resources for locating public and private scholarships and assistance in completing financial aid applications.
  • Education and counseling services designed to improve financial and economic.
  • Individualized counseling for personal, career and academic matters.
  • Information, activities and instruction on the range of career options available to students.
  • Mentoring programs involving faculty or upper-class students.

The program’s objective calls for 75 percent of all participants to persist from one academic year to the beginning of the next academic year or to earn a bachelor’s degree during the academic year. At least 90 percent of participants are expected to stay in good academic standing, while 55 percent are expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.

“The program will provide students with comprehensive academic, career and financial literacy counseling services, as well as cultural events and activities designed to enhance their persistence and graduation from the university and their next steps into graduate school or full-time employment,” said Omar Ghrayeb, vice provost for undergraduate studies. “We are proud to offer it at NIU.”

For more information on the program, contact Felicia Bohanon at 815-753-1867 or [email protected].