Analysis Support for the Federal TRIO Programs

Helping students achieve their education goals

U.S. Department of Education

High school graduation rates in the United States are on an upward trend—with more than 80 percent of students earning their diplomas on time however, the rates for undeserved students continue to lag behind the national average. Low-income students are approximately 8 percent less likely to graduate on time, and only half of the students in foster care earn their diplomas by the age of 18.

The challenges continue as students complete high school and enroll in college. Nearly a quarter of first-generation students, who come from middle-income or high-income families will earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of entering college. That’s about half the rate of students from similar economic backgrounds who have at least one parent who earned a degree. For first-generation students from low-income families, the graduation rate drops to about 1 in 10.

These isses are often intensified for young women. The Federal TRIO Programs provide young women with opportunities to explore learning enrichment through academic instruction. For example, introducing educational activities in the STEM field can increase women’s career interest in the generally male dominated industry.

TRIO Programs Provide Education Opportunities for Disadvantaged Students

Since the 1960s, the U.S. Department of Education has developed and expanded the Federal TRIO Programs with the goal of improving secondary, postsecondary, and postbaccalaureate opportunities for disadvantaged students.

TRIO has grown from its three original programs—Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Student Support Services—to seven programs tailored to support students from low-income families, disconnected youth, first-generation college students, and adults, including veterans. These programs provide grants to institutions of higher education, public agencies such as state and local education departments, and other organizations that serve TRIO’s target populations.

Because TRIO directs federal funds to these grantees, its programs are subject to congressional review. Grantees must submit data to the U.S. Department of Education as part of their funding agreements.

Analyzing and Reporting on TRIO Program Impacts and Costs

RTI analyzes student-level and grantee-level data to determine the impact of TRIO’s programs and the cost of TRIO programs per successful participant. Our findings are reported to Congress each year to help inform funding decisions.

The true impact of these education programs is best measured by looking at student success over the long term. As grantees collect and report data each year, we merge those new data with data from previous years by matching student records to create a longitudinal data file. As a result, we are now able to look at 10 years of data for some of the first groups of participants studied, giving leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders an in-depth picture of each program’s performance.

TRIO’s Positive Results Benefit a Variety of Student Populations

Our analysis of the data have shown significant successes and benefits of the suite of TRIO programs. For example,

Through these comprehensive program evaluations, we deliver actionable data to the Department of Education and the education policy community, supporting future decisions on these and other programs aimed at improving education outcomes for low-income students, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities.