History of TRIO Programs

Federal TRIO Programs
A History of Success and Growth

TRIO Programs in North Dakota:

Educational Talent Search
Upward Bound
Student Support Services
Educational Opportunity Center
Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program


The term TRIO is actually an acronym describing the first three programs that began in the mid 1960’s. Upward Bound was the first program emerging out of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in response to the administration’s War on Poverty. Educational Talent Search was the second program to be created as part of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In 1968 Student Support Services, which was originally known as Special Services for Disadvantaged Students, was the third educational opportunity program to be authorized through Higher Education Amendments. The target groups to be served by the TRIO programs were students who came from low income families and/or families where neither parent completed bachelor level college degrees. Over the past 40 plus years, TRIO programs have successfully impacted the lives of millions of students by enhancing their opportunity to receive an education. The success of the original three programs made it possible for the following six programs to be added during the years 1972 to 1999.

• Veterans Upward Bound (1972)

• Educational Opportunity Centers (1972)

• TRIO Training Grants (1976)

• Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate

Achievement Programs (1989)

• Upward Bound Math and Science Centers


• Dissemination Partnerships (1999)


All of the TRIO programs share a foundational goal and that is to assist eligible students in achieving a bachelor level post-secondary education. Each TRIO program serves a different population of student, based upon their academic, career, educational, and personal needs. All the TRIO programs provide a similar array of retention based academic and personal services that are designed to prepare participants for subsequent levels of education.

Success and Growth

The continued success of TRIO programs has resulted in the eventual growth to 2,880 funded  programs across the United States in 2009, serving 836,395 low income, first generation, and disabled students. Nationally, 37% of TRIO students are Whites, 35% are African Americans, 19% are Hispanics, 4% are Native Americans, 4% are Asian-Americans and 1% are listed as other and/or multicultural. More than 1,000 colleges, universities, community colleges, and agencies now offer TRIO Programs in America.

Unless otherwise noted, information for this report has been taken from the Council for Opportunity in Education website, www.coe.net.org.