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ME Lawmakers Support Programs for Low-Income College Students


Wednesday, July 14, 2021   

AUGUSTA, Maine - A bipartisan group of nearly 60 U.S. senators led by Susan Collins, R-Maine, is urging more funding for the federal TRIO programs.

The programs serve more than 7,500 Maine students who are low-income, the first in their family to attend college or who live with a disability. TRIO programs encourage and provide resources for high school students to apply and prepare for college, and help current students with course selection, connecting to tutoring services, financial literacy and more.

Mary Sinclair, president of the Maine Educational Opportunity Association, said the programs are about access for historically underserved communities.

"Our programs - we're very relationship-based," she said. "We know our students really well, and we help them kind of meet the challenges of whatever it is that they are needing."

Collins and her colleagues are reminding the House Appropriations Committee chairs that, during the pandemic, college enrollment rates from high schools with high poverty rates fell steeply from the previous year, and lower-income students have been twice as likely to drop out of community college since the COVID-19 crisis.

Sara Flowers, director of the Student Support Services Program at the University of Maine in Augusta, echoed the importance of pushing against the trend of low-income, first-generation, and students with disabilities enrolling and graduating at lower rates than their peers. She said TRIO funding is crucial for equity, especially in light of what she calls "academic inflation."

"The jobs out there for our students are, in some ways, the same jobs that were there 30 years ago," she said, "but now we're asking for higher degrees from those applicants than we did 30 years ago."

The higher-education funding bill, as it stands now in committee, would boost funding for TRIO programs by 18%. It also would increase funding for career and adult education, and increase the maximum annual Pell Grant amount by $400.

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