TRiO Program Provides New Levels of Student Support

Rutgers University–Camden Commencement 2016

By Caroline Yount

A Rutgers University–Camden program designed to support students who come from disadvantaged circumstances has expanded its reach to give even more opportunities to the undergrads it serves.

TRiO Student Support Services, a success program that provides academic and other support services to undergraduates who are low-income, first-generation college attendees and students with disabilities, provided $36,000 in scholarships to Rutgers–Camden students for learning abroad opportunities and summer classes during 2015-16.

While studying overseas can broaden any student’s perspective on the world, “these opportunities have a high impact and are especially beneficial for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are transformative,” says Pamela Clark, project director for TRiO. Studies show that students experience greater academic gains in their coursework after learning abroad, she adds.

Learning abroad programs, however, tend to lack diversity and many students may not even consider the possibility of international study, Clark says. This is why the program now provides three scholarships designed to expand access to international experiences. Each year, recipients of the scholarship will be learning abroad for the first time. The scholarships are made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, with support from Rutgers–Camden.

“We want to ensure that these opportunities to learn abroad are real for all students,” Clark says.

TRiO students at Rutgers–Camden may apply for the learning abroad scholarships, which will be available again in 2016-17. The goal of TRiO is to help the students succeed and graduate in a timely manner, well equipped for future opportunities. Support services include academic coaching and advising, one-on-one professional/peer tutoring and peer mentoring, other academic enrichment, and financial literacy workshops.

In addition to helping students study abroad, TRiO awarded grants that enabled 18 students to take classes at Rutgers–Camden this summer. As with learning abroad grants, a portion of the money comes from the U.S. Department of Education, with matching institutional funds. The grants were awarded to eligible and engaged students who have successfully fulfilled the obligations of the program. Providing grants for summer classes, Clark says, is critical because typically students would need to take out loans to fund summer coursework.

“We do not want our students to assume any unnecessary student loan debt,” Clark says.

Summer classes are a key way to help students stay on track with their education and finish their degrees faster. Whether a student needs to progress in required classes needed for graduation, take a developmental class, or retake a course, the grants “are about setting them up to be where they need to be in the fall. They also keep the students educationally focused and motivated,” Clark says.

Argenis Reyes, a double major in psychology and computer science, took Social Psychology and Object Oriented Programming classes this summer, thanks to the TRiO grant he received. Originally majoring in biology, Reyes’ interests led him to change his major to computer science. Being able to take the summer programming course, a prerequisite for many of the computer science classes he will need to take in the next academic year, means an earlier graduation date. Reyes hopes that a job in computer science after graduation means “going to grad school without taking out loans.”

For Desiree Harris, who is between her junior and senior years, the three psychology classes she took this summer mean that she will be able to graduate in spring 2017.

Because she continued her studies, Harris says she has been able to get a head start on her senior thesis project, a study examining the impact of parenting on children facing extreme adversity and trauma. In addition to her classes this summer, Harris has met with her faculty adviser regularly and submitted a proposal to present her research at a national conference next year. “Without the grant, I would not have been able to take courses this summer,” Harris said.

Learn more about the TRiO Student Support Services program at Rutgers–Camden.

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