Texas A&M University-Texarkana has received a $1.1 million TRiO Student Support Services grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The university will receive $220,000 a year for five years to provide support services for 220 first-generation students, students with disabilities and low-income students.

The goal of the Student Support Services initiative is to increase the college retention and graduation rates of participants, said Dr. Bill McHenry, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at A&M-Texarkana.
“Funds will be used to provide academic tutoring, advising, and information on student financial aid programs and scholarships,” Dr. McHenry said. “We’ll also provide personal and career counseling and instruction designed to acquaint students with career options and mentoring programs.”
Another component of the program is financial and economic literacy.
“It’s important for students to understand concepts such as budgeting and the impact of credit and loans on their financial futures,” Dr. McHenry said. “We want our students to understand how money works in the world.”
Funds also will be used to provide grant aid for qualifying participants to assist them with their educational expenses while they are enrolled, said Elizabeth Patterson, assistant vice president for Student Success.
“We will hire immediately for three new positions to direct and coordinate TRiO Student Support Services programs and activities. TRiO program personnel will collaborate with existing departments on campus to assist students in reaching their academic and personal goals.  We are very excited about the additional resources and support this program will provide for our students,” Patterson said.
“As a first generation college student myself, I know first-hand the positive effects associated with this type of program. This program changes lives by providing people with the opportunity and support needed to successfully complete a degree from an institution of higher education. It will have a positive impact on the community as well by having more citizens in this region obtaining college degrees.”
Dr. Tonya Hill, lead TRiO Student Support Services author and Developmental Education coordinator, said the program will begin soon with students applying in the next few weeks.
"Once we have enrolled participants, we will start offering services." Dr. Hill said. "From personal experience, I know that programs like this are empowering and effective.  With the goal of helping students succeed throughout college and earn a baccalaureate degree, TRiO Student Support Services programs help students excel despite various challenges.  While receiving various services, participants meet program objectives of higher rates of persistence, good academic standing and graduation."
President Dr. Emily Cutrer said she is grateful to the local Congressional delegation and community for providing support for the competitive grant.
“Our success in the grant application process simply would not have been possible without the tremendous support we have received from our Congressional delegation and staff, business, industry, community and educational partners,” Dr. Cutrer said. “These funds will assist in providing much-needed services to students who need extra support in fulfilling their educational and career goals.”