The U.S. Department of Education announced that Illinois State University will receive a federal Student Support Services (SSS) grant of $1,547,285 to help more students succeed in and graduate from college. Illinois State University has received TRIO grant funds since the early 1980s. Illinois State’s program is funded to serve 232 students who have a 96 percent retention rate which is well above the overall Illinois State University retention rate.

SSS serves college students who are low income, first generation, or have a disability. The U.S Department of Education identifies first-generation students as those whose parents did not obtain a four-year college degree. TRIO SSS provides holistic services that include academic advising, tutoring, financial literacy, career and identity development, pathways to graduate school opportunities, referral to campus and community resources, student leadership development, and other forms of assistance. Such services build community, enhance academic success, and make it possible for students to graduate with the lowest possible debt.

“TRIO students at Illinois State are talented and driven” said Wendi Whitman, interim director of University College. “The TRIO Student Support Services is an integral part of our retention and graduation efforts for first-generation and low-income students. With the COVID 19 pandemic, TRIO staff played an important role in addressing equity concerns for our TRIO population.”

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis demonstrated his support for the TRIO Student Support Programs in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. “The Student Support Services program has a strong track record of investing in students and helping them achieve their goal of college attainment and I’m proud to support it,” said Davis. “The colleges and universities I represent have told me how important this funding is to helping students from low income families complete their degree and be a success in today’s global workforce. I look forward to seeing them put these dollars into action.”

Many Student Support Services alumni have gone on to great success, among them Emmy, Tony and Academy-Award winning actress Viola Davis, U.S. Rep. Gwendolyn Moore of Wisconsin’s 4th District, and Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Hispanic astronaut.

SSS began in 1968 and is one of the eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. “Illinois State’s TRIO SSS program recognizes the wealth that first-generation students bring to the campus community and walks alongside them as they use their strengths to achieve optimal personal and academic success,” said Shatoya Black, coordinator of the TRIO Student Support Services program. This grant renewal allows the University to continue the legacy of those efforts at Illinois State University.