St. Mary’s University will receive more than $1.3 million for a TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help retain and graduate first-generation and low-income students and students with disabilities. 

The $1,309,435 grant will fund support services for 140 students each year for the next five years. The goals include at least 81% of program participants returning for the next academic year or graduating, and 86% maintaining good academic standing. 

“Now, more than ever, this important funding will help improve our ability to provide access to an excellent education amid challenging times and ensure our students achieve academic success and graduate,” said St. Mary’s University President Thomas Mengler, J.D. “The holistic programming that this grant funds will enrich the lives of the future leaders we are educating today.” 

Forty-seven percent of the St. Mary’s student body is classified as first-generation and 40% of undergraduates in 2019 were Pell Eligible, an indicator of exceptional financial need. National graduation rates for students in these demographics are traditionally lower than those of other demographics. 

The SSS program at St. Mary’s includes study skills development, academic advising, financial aid coaching, cultural enrichment activities, financial literacy coaching, career and graduate preparation and more. The program includes three full-time staff members — a TRiO SSS program director, assistant director and student success specialist — focusing on the development of non-cognitive factors and personal counseling.

“College completion is as important as college access. This TRiO grant allows us to serve our students by continuing to increase all metrics of student success for our TRiO participants,” said Rosalind Alderman, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Enrollment Management. 

“Lessons learned infuse best practices in all our student success initiatives,” Alderman said. 

According to the Department of Education, “TRiO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs.” 

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

This grant also brings the University even closer to reaching its $150 million fundraising goal supporting the Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign, the largest campaign in the institution’s history. 

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