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Valley College applies for federal grant to help recruit more disadvantaged students

The TRiO program would enroll a minimum of 4,000 students over five years.

By Jack Kelly, Staff Writer

Director of TRiO Student Support Services Julia Mendoza announced at the Grants Committee meeting on Feb. 17 that Valley College applied for the Educational Opportunity Center grant available through the Department of Education’s Federal TRiO Programs. If selected, Valley would design an admission and counseling program to support qualified adults looking to enter or continue post-secondary education.

The Federal TRiO Programs provide services to disadvantaged individuals, and each of the eight programs is designed to target specific communities or demographics. Valley plans to primarily use their Educational Opportunity Center for students over 19 years old who require assistance completing their GED or enrolling in higher education. Once their GED is complete, the students can enroll in Valley classes or find an equivalent certificate program.

The program also serves to improve participants’ financial and economic literacy. As stated on the Department of Education’s program description, “An important objective of the program is to counsel participants on financial aid options, including basic financial planning skills, and to assist in the application process.”

Other activities supported by the grant include assistance in college entrance exam preparation, career workshops and tutorial services. Students could also participate in other on-campus programs at Valley like Promoting Awareness of STEM Opportunities (PASO STEM).

The program measures success by the percentage of low-income, first-generation college students successfully pursuing educational opportunities. With this in mind, Valley aims to sign up a minimum of 800 students per year using part-time counselors and classified student interns as recruiters and mentors.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, the grant would provide $232,000 every year for five years with the option to renew. The competition is held every four years. If Valley is not selected, their next opportunity to apply would be in 2025.

“It was just submitted, so it's still pending,” said Valley President Barry Gribbons. “We expect to hear about our application over the summer.”

The Department of Education has selected very few institutions to participate in its Educational Opportunity Centers Program since its creation in 1972. In 2016, the program funded its largest number of institutions in over 15 years; they allocated over $56 million to only 165 institutions, with an average award of $340,527.

Without the grant, Valley’s TRiO Student Support Services department still offers individual counseling, tutoring, workshops, and more. Due to COVID-19, they have transitioned to remote services. For students interested in applying to TRiO or for more information, they can visit the department’s website.

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