U.S. Senators Urge Congressional Leaders to Support Vulnerable Students Amid Coronavirus Crisis
Bipartisan letter emphasizes need to increase funding for TRIO programs
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are teaming up with U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and 36 Senate colleagues in seeking new funding for the Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) in the upcoming coronavirus relief package. TRIO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs. TRIO programs offer a range of outreach and student services, from academic and cultural enrichment to tutoring, financial literacy, study workshops, interviewing skills, and more.
“TRIO helps provide a structured educational support system and allows students to reach their full potential. Vulnerable students and their families that have been hit hard by COVID-19 and additional federal funding is required to ensure students can access education and continue on the academic path to success,” said Reed.
“While distance learning isn’t easy for anyone, the pandemic has disproportionately created new obstacles for students who were already facing challenges in school,” said Whitehouse. “Additional funding for TRIO programs will provide extra support to help those students succeed.”
The Senators’ letter comes as the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis continues to exacerbate existing inequities in education—from significant losses of income to a lack of access to tools, such as reliable internet access, that are essential to participating in remote learning.
“Low-income students, students with disabilities, first-generation students, youth who are homeless, have limited English proficiency, and who are in foster care, students in rural communities, and military veterans all already face greater obstacles to their learning experiences and now are often encountering a more substantial impact from COVID-19,” the 40 Senators wrote in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “These students are at risk of falling through the cracks of our system and permanently losing a chance to pursue higher levels of education.”
TRIO helps support students and mitigates existing disparities in educational access and assistance. The programs enrich individual students academically and also strengthen the American workforce and economy by empowering more students to complete their high school education and pursue higher education.
“A significant increase in overall program capacity would allow significantly more vulnerable students to receive support that is critical to their success and to the economy’s revival, such as academic tutoring and counseling; financial literacy programs; assistance with postsecondary planning, college admissions applications, and career counseling; peer and adult mentoring; work-study opportunities; and connections to wrap-around services that make high school and college completion more likely,” the Senators wrote.
The term “TRIO” stems from the original three initial TRIO programs established by Congress in the 1960s: Upward Bound; Talent Search; and Student Support Services. Over the years, additional federal TRIO programs were added to the roster, including: Educational Opportunity Center; TRIO Training Program; McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program; Upward Bound Math/Science; and Veterans Upward Bound.
In addition to Reed, Whitehouse, Murkowski, Collins, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Brian Schatz (D-HI), James Risch (R-ID), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AK), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA), Angus King (I-ME), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Minority Leader McCarthy:
Thank you for your swift, bipartisan action to respond to the health and economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As you prepare for a fourth economic relief package, we respectfully request significant funding to be allocated to Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) to support vulnerable students and their families impacted by the virus.
COVID-19 has disrupted the learning of millions of students. From in-person classroom closures to the cancellation of essential after-school programs, students across the nation have lost invaluable and formative academic experiences. These students are missing out on more than graduation ceremonies and exams; their academic and personal lives have been destabilized, and their career prospects have been shaken. Many students are in dire need of immediate, comprehensive support during this time of academic and economic uncertainty.
Low-income students, students with disabilities, first-generation students, youth who are homeless, have limited English proficiency, and who are in foster care, students in rural communities, and military veterans—all of whom already face greater obstacles to their learning experiences are often encountering a more substantial impact from COVID-19. These students are at risk of falling through the cracks of our system and permanently losing a chance to pursue higher levels of education.
TRIO programs help ensure that these vulnerable students receive the support they need to progress through the academic pipeline. Through a set of outreach and student services programs, TRIO works to mitigate existing disparities in access and assistance for students. Their programs not only enrich individuals academically, but they also enhance our workforce’s economic prospects by empowering more people to earn high school diplomas and post-secondary degrees. The assistance that TRIO program professionals can provide to these students is even more necessary during the pandemic.
A significant increase in overall program capacity would allow significantly more vulnerable students to receive support that is critical to their success and to the economy’s revival, such as academic tutoring and counseling; financial literacy programs; assistance with postsecondary planning, college admissions applications, and career counseling; peer and adult mentoring; work-study opportunities, and connections to wrap-around services that make high school and college completion more likely.
We thank you for your support of these vital programs for our nation’s most vulnerable students and their families, and we look forward to working with you on the next relief bill to ensure our most vulnerable students are supported.
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