Oregon TRIO Association was founded in 2000 when a group of TRIO program leaders agreed to organize and create a singular entity that advocates on behalf of TRIO students to US federal legislators. They held annual meetings to provide programmatic support, community, a platform to share best practices, and organized an annual professional development conference to provide structure and accessibility to Oregon’s TRIO professionals. In 2011, OTA officially registered as a 501(c)(3) organization and its board structure was designed to provide three primary initiatives: (1) an annual professional development conference for TRIO professionals; (2) an annual student leadership conference for TRIO students; and (3) a framework to ensure that Oregon sends advocates annually to Washington D.C. to advocate on behalf of funding and sustaining TRIO programs nationwide. Since then, OTA has expanded via enhanced TRIO Alumni benefits to our students through board positions, a fellowship program, increased student scholarship funding, consistent networking opportunities, and a continued push to legitimize the organization. In July of 2021, OTA received a $1 million grant from the State of Oregon to support college access for traditionally marginalized students. This funding was used to create a full-time Executive Director position and has led to substantial changes within the organization.
OTA’s mission is to increase the number of low-income, first-generation, underrepresented, and disabled student populations in higher education. OTA advocates for its TRIO programs and students at the Congressional level, provides professional development opportunities for members and students, connects students to community resources, and offers grant writing support to ensure the sustainability of its programs by the US Department of Education. OTA is a member of the Northwest Association of Educational Opportunity Programs (NAEOP), which represents Region X TRIO Programs in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. TRIO programs assist students with career exploration, college admissions, college preparation, financial aid, scholarships, and college retention and graduation. OTA TRIO programs include: (1) Educational Talent Search, (2) Upward Bound, (3) Upward Bound Math-Science, (4) Veteran’s Upward Bound, (5) Educational Opportunity Centers, (6) Student Support Services, (7) the Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, and (8) TRIO Training Grants.
TRIO programs were the first national college access and retention programs to address the dire state of social and cultural barriers to education in the U.S. In 1964, TRIO began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty after the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964 established an experimental program called Upward Bound. In 1965, the Higher Education Act created the Talent Search program. In 1968, another program, Special Services for Disadvantaged Students (later known as Student Support Services), was launched, and the term “TRIO” was coined to describe these federally funded programs. The trio of programs gained notoriety for encouraging access to higher education for low-income students. By 1998, the TRIO programs had become a vital pipeline to opportunity, serving traditional students, displaced workers, and veterans. The original three programs had grown to nine, adding Educational Opportunity Centers and Veterans Upward Bound in 1972, Training Program for Federal TRIO programs in 1976, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program in 1986, Upward Bound Math/Science in 1990, the TRIO Dissemination Partnership in 1998, and finally, the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 amended the Student Support Services (SSS) program to permit the use of program funds for direct financial assistance (aka Grant Aid) for current SSS participants who are receiving Federal Pell Grants.
Today, OTA TRIO programs continue to serve over 11,000 students annually in forty-seven projects among Oregon’s five districts. OTA is working to build organizational capacity as we can now provide advanced support to our programs and create new opportunities for TRIO students. Our primary goal is to increase the number of students served in Oregon by applying for new TRIO grants throughout the state. These grant funds are utilized to create scholarships to support college students who are no longer eligible for financial aid (and are close to graduation) and for low-income students to pursue international education opportunities. We are constantly pursuing new projects and funding support to expand services and opportunities for TRIO students throughout Oregon.