The U.S. Department of Education awarded a $1,265,000 grant to UM-Dearborn to assist students who are low-income, first-generation — meaning a student whose parents do not have a four-year degree — or have a disability connect with college opportunities and earn a diploma.
UM-Dearborn is a first-time recipient of the federal Student Support Services (SSS) grant, which is part of the federal government’s TRIO program. The TRIO program is designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. The grant can be renewed every five years.
Perry Boyd II, UM-Dearborn’s Director of TRIO Programs, says for higher education institutions to receive the grant, a need must be shown by at least 40% of the student population and there must be a demonstrated and organized effort by campus leadership to support those students.
“We got a perfect score,” Boyd says. “Many students who come from these environments have schools that provide an inferior education and they have catching up to do. Or they couldn’t get resources they needed in the classroom and they fell behind in learning. That doesn’t mean they can’t succeed or they aren’t smart — many of these kids are brilliant and have great ideas. The TRIO Program recognizes this. We want them to see that they can succeed in an academic setting.”
Services the grant provides academic tutoring, financial aid advice, career and college mentoring, help in choosing courses, and other forms of assistance. The purpose? Enhancing academic success and making it more likely that students will graduate with the lowest possible debt. In addition, students will be provided with accessible and affordable course materials and resources and other academic supplies, as well as Oculus virtual reality headsets to have interactive immersive experiences and discussions with prominent cultural organizations. Students will also connect with graduate school students and professors from the Rackham School of Graduate Studies in Ann Arbor and more.
Boyd says students who apply and join the program will have individualized support and spend time together — virtually due to social distancing at this time — as a group.
“We want to get these students connected to each other, to a network of mentors and to their academic goals. College graduates are higher earners and have more opportunities. We want them to earn that diploma,” Boyd says. “I’ve been where some of them are. I grew up in Detroit in a pretty tough neighborhood. I understand the obstacles and also know what it’s like to come out on the other side.”
Provost Sue Alcock says campus is grateful to be recognized as a university committed to getting students to graduation.
“This new grant will help us expand our targeted efforts to support and encourage students who may have lower retention and graduation rates of their peers,” Alcock says. “However, this grant is just one part of our commitment to student success. Our student body as a whole has access to many student success tools and we are committed to continuing to expand and enhance our support for all students.”
Dean of Students Amy Finley says the TRIO SSS grant is another important piece in the campus’ collective effort to help connect students with their dreams.
“UM-Dearborn is committed to getting students not only to college, but also through college,” Finley says. “The success of any of our students is important for all of our students and it is most certainly a top priority for our students, faculty and staff.”
If you are interested in joining the TRIO SSS Program, please apply.