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FinnU TRIO SSS Grant Renewed for $1.7M Over 5 Years

August 17, 2020

 The U.S. Department of Education announced that Finlandia University’s TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) grant program will be renewed for $1,705,835 over five years to help more students succeed in and graduate from college. FinnU’s TRIO SSS program has been providing services on campus for almost 30 years and assists 180 students annually.

TRIO SSS helps college students who are low income, first generation (those whose parents do not have a four-year college degree) or students with disabilities. The array of services the grant will provide are comprehensive and will include academic tutoring, financial aid advice, career and college mentoring, help in choosing courses, and other forms of assistance. Such services enhance academic success and make it more likely that students will graduate or transfer with the lowest possible debt. Many Student Support Services alumni have gone on to great success, among them Emmy, Tony and Academy-Award winning actress Viola Davis, U.S. Rep. Gwendolyn Moore of Wisconsin’s 4th District and Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Hispanic astronaut.

“TRIO SSS is critical to the success and graduation of first-generation, low income and students with disabilities at Finlandia University,” said TRIO SSS Director Cindy Cowell. “The goals of TRIO SSS align strongly with the mission of ELCA Lutheran higher education, ‘Called and empowered to serve the neighbor so that all may flourish.’”

In addition to the traditional services TRIO has provided in the past, Cowell is excited to begin offering new programming in this grant cycle.

“New to SSS in the recently approved grant application are UNS courses for credit in study skills, career exploration and financial literacy. These courses will be delivered in partnership with the university,” Cowell said.”

TRIO SSS began in 1968 and is one of the eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success; it bolsters students from low income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had, and helps students with disabilities remove obstacles preventing them from thriving academically.

Recent campus research by FinnU’s TRIO SSS showed that over 60 percent of the student body in the fall of 2019 graduated from under-resourced high schools in 37 states.

“Students are not arriving at college with all of the tools that they need to be successful,” said Cowell. “TRIO SSS serves to equip these students beginning with their first day on campus through to the bachelor degree graduation stage.”

In addition to facing traditional hardships, Covid-19 has made it even more challenging for first-generation and low-income students.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the systemic inequality and financial hardship which keep promising students from succeeding in college. Student Support Services is needed now more than ever,” said Maureen Hoyler. Hoyler is the president of the non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington, D.C., dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities.

For more than 50 years, the Student Support Services program has made important contributions to individuals and society as a whole by providing a broad range of services to help students succeed. This vital program can and does make all the difference.

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