St. Mary’s awarded $1.1 million grant to help underserved students finish college

St. Mary’s University will receive nearly $1.1 million through the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program to help retain and graduate first-generation and low-income students and students with disabilities.

TRIO Student Support Services

The $1,099,995 grant from the U.S. Department of Education will fund support services for 140 students each year for the next five years. The goal is for 65 percent of the participants to earn a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s within six years.

“We are ecstatic to have another opportunity to improve our already outstanding student retention efforts,” University President Thomas Mengler said. “We will use this grant to touch a lot of lives.”

Sixty percent of the St. Mary’s student body is classified as first-generation and 36 percent are considered low income. Graduation rates for students in these demographics are traditionally lower than those of other demographics.

The SSS program at St. Mary’s will include intensive tutorials, study skills development, computer literacy training, academic advising, personal counseling, financial literacy coaching, cultural enrichment activities, career and graduate counseling and more. The program’s two new full-time staff members – a TRIO SSS Program Director and an Academic/Career Coach – as well as three part-time staff members will focus on the development of non-cognitive factors and personal counseling in their efforts.

“This grant will employ innovative approaches to helping students develop their non-cognitive factors, such as grit and mindset, in order to help them make timely progression to a degree,” said Rosalind Alderman, Assistant Vice President for Retention Management.

According to the Department of Education, SSS “funds are awarded to institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for academic development, assist students with basic college requirements, and to motivate students toward the successful completion of their postsecondary education.”

Other successful TRIO programs at St. Mary’s are Upward Bound and the McNair Scholars Program.

Last summer, the University received about $5.5 million in federal Title V grants through the Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans Program and the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program. Those funds are being used to expand online graduate program offerings, establish a technology-rich Graduate Center for Excellence and further STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education development.


St. Mary's University, founded in 1852, is the first institution of higher learning in San Antonio and the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest. It offers 75 programs, including doctoral and law programs, and has a diverse student population of about 3,800 of all faiths and backgrounds. Its vision, as a Catholic and Marianist liberal arts institution, is to become one of the finest private universities in the region, a gateway for graduates to professional lives as ethical leaders in Texas, the nation and the world.

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