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TRIO doubles federal funding with new grant to help STEM students

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded more than $2.6 million to USM’s TRIO program to augment its work with students who have a low income, a disability or are the first in their families to attend college.

The just-announced funding — arriving in two, five-year grants — expands TRIO advising to target students pursuing fields in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The new funding,  $1.3 million, allows TRIO to advise 120 STEM students.

The first $1.3 million replicates previous grants, which had given TRIO funding to provide personal advising to 140 USM students in a broad range of study areas.

During one-on-one visits, advisors help students explore and achieve their academic, career, financial and personal goals. The new grant will help TRIO establish closer ties with STEM students, said Terri Plummer, the director of TRIO College Programs at USM.

“It is important because TRIO-eligible and minority students are often underrepresented in STEM fields,” Plummer said. “This is not necessarily because colleges are not recruiting these students into STEM, but because we are not retaining them. This grant is designed to raise the retention, good academic standing and graduation rates of TRIO-eligible STEM students and to level the playing field for underrepresented students in STEM. And, that is good news for USM and for STEM programs at USM.”

Students who are pursuing STEM disciplines are encouraged to consider applying for TRIO Student Support Services. They can apply online. If a faculty or staff member would like to refer someone, see this online form.

The need is strong for a school like USM, where just over half of students are in the first in their families to attend college. The additional grant funding will allow TRIO to serve nearly double the number of TRIO-eligible students at USM, Plummer said.

The work is aimed at helping all students become successful, said Jeremy Qualls, the dean of USM’s College of Science, Technology and Health.

“USM is fully committed to being a premier science and research institution dedicated to student success,” Qualls said. “The TRIO programs are very effective at aligning STEM students for success and complement the tremendous transformation in the sciences we are seeing. I am very excited about the impact TRIO could have for the community. Receiving the funding is phenomenal and indicative of our progress with innovation and academic excellence at USM.”