UMW News BureauThe Department of Education recently awarded the UMW TRIO Student Support Services a grant totaling over $1 million. By Kaitlin Ens The Department of Education recently awarded TRIO Student Support Services a grant totaling $1,277,525. TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) is a federally funded program aiding first-generation, disabled, or low-income students who are pursuing a college degree. This nationwide program, first established at the University of Montana Western in 2001, offers advising, tutoring and counseling to students. Currently Montana Western serves 160 bachelor’s degree-seeking TRIO SSS students. In order to receive this new funding, TRIO SSS Director Christy Keyes dedicated many hours to writing a new grant proposal accompanied by support documentation. In addition to the grant proposal, the program’s yearly Department of Education scores were also taken into consideration. “We are graded on how well we meet our goals every year,” Keyes said. “Our graduation rate, persistence rate, and academic standings are scored by the Department of Education. We are always proud of our students.” These documents were then submitted to the FY 2010 SSS Competition for New Awards. “We submitted the grant in December,” Keyes explained. “We were not officially informed of our successful funding until Friday the 6th of August. It was a long wait.” This funding for TRIO SSS became available on Sept. 1, 2010 and will be divided equally over a five-year period. The per-year funding amounts to $255,505. The TRIO SSS staff carefully laid out plans as to where the money will go. An automatic $20,000 comes out of the yearly grant money for Grant Aid awards. Grant Aid awards are given on a financial need basis to students who satisfy eligibility requirements. These awards can be no less than the Federal Pell grant minimum, which is $976. “That means 20 students impacted,” Keyes said. “They can use that money as they see fit, for rent, books, groceries, anything they are in need of.” In addition to the Grant Aid awards, TRIO SSS has many other uses for the new grant funding. “A large part will go towards staff salaries, maintaining the student computer lab, and funding the mentoring program,” Keyes said. “We try to purchase tickets for cultural events such as the spring luau at Montana Western and the Labor Day or college rodeos. We then provide them to students who would otherwise be unable to attend, at no cost. We partially fund the campus counselor’s salary, as well as partially fund salaries and supplies for the Learning Center.” “Their funding is invaluable to us," Sarah Juran, Director of the Learning Center and Career Services, said. “Without it, we would not be able to provide tutoring in such a wide range of subjects. Even if students are not TRIO SSS members, they can still benefit from the program through the Learning Center’s many tutors.” Current TRIO SSS members understand how important this new grant is in order for the program to maintain its student-oriented service. “This group of people and the service they offer has been unbelievable,” Heather Rubey, a program member said. “My success is partially due to the constant support I have been given by the TRIO office. It has been amazing to find a group of people who, no matter what, care and want you to succeed just as if you are family. This campus and my college career would not be the same without this wonderful team of people.” A TRIO SSS alumna herself, Keyes knows firsthand how helpful the program can be. The Department of Education grant means that students can continue to count on TRIO Student Support Services’ dedicated staff. “It’s exciting to know that we will be here for another five years,” Keyes added.