TRiO Program Affected By Sequestration

Sequestration cuts pose a threat to the TRiO program, and could result in lowered success rates for participating COS students.

According to a report by the American Council on Education, the TRiO and Gear Up programs, which provide assistance for students from low income households and first generation college students, stand to lose $58 million in funding. According to TRiO Programs Director Ricardo Marmolejo, the TRiO programs are to receive 5.1%  cuts across the board for the 2013-2014 years. While individuals like Marmolejo agree that cuts need to be made to assist in reducing the deficit, he feels that closer considerations should be made when involving education.

“If we are to reach President Obama’s goal to become the most educated country, producing the most educated people with degrees … we need to stop cutting education,” said Marmolejo.

Marmolejo says that funding cuts for TRiO would affect participating COS students greatly. He says that these types of cuts would result in the reduction of staff members and resources needed to effectively serve students. The TRiO Program is a result of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and has helped thousands of students since its inception.

“It would affect us greatly. Going from serving 140 students, currently involved in the program, we might go down to serving only 100 students, so that leaves out those other 40 students that we could have very well helped out to graduate from not only COS but from a 4-year institution,” Marmolejo said.

The TRiO Program provides students with academic counseling, tutoring, and instruction in financial literacy. Its focus is not only to increase completion rates for students but to also provide a solid foundation for success beyond the walls of the institution. In addition, TRiO also has a high school program that starts preparing students for postsecondary educational experiences.

Several COS TRiO participants started with the high school program and are still involved with its COS counterpart. Mirella Chavez, a fifth-semester student studying child development, is one of those students. Chavez worries that the cuts could affect students like herself that have benefited from the program since high school. While there are other ways students get educational assistance, Chavez feels the TRiO program grants students a very unique learning experience. 

“If I didn’t have the help TRiO gave me, in high school and now, I would have never been able to go to college and do as well as I have,” Chavez said. “It’s been a really good experience; it has helped me a lot.”

Fourth-semester student Jessica Alvarado, studying to be a physical therapy assistant, has also been involved in TRiO since high school. Alvarado feels that the program has permitted her to get ahead in her studies.

“TRiO helped me to study and get ahead with my transferable credits for a 4-year university,” Alvarado said.

Information from a White House report stated that 10,000 college work-study jobs would also be eliminated. Although education will not bear the entire blow of federal spending cuts, the shrinkage of funds will have a substantial effect on not only students but educators as well. In fact, White House estimates made on a state-by-state basis indicate that approximately 1,200 jobs are at risk among teachers and aides in California. 

The sequester is a series of federal budget cuts implemented to force an agreement between the White House and Congress in order to reduce the deficit. While effects of the cuts would be felt across all federal funding, there are those cuts that present serious issues for the educational system.

First mention of the “sequester” came in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. The act was the idea of former Texas Senator Phil Gramm. In a fact sheet titled, “The Sequester: Mechanics and Impact”written by Shai Akabas, senior policy analyst for the Bipartisan Policy Center, Gramm states,”It was never the objective of  [GRH] to trigger the sequester; the objective of [GRH] was to have the threat of the sequester force compromise and action.”

Noncompliance to mitigate further accrual of debt would thereby force cuts nationally of $1.2 trillion between 2013 and 2021. Consequently, the countdown to sequestration is winding down to its final moments and agreements between the White House and Congress have yet to be made. 


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