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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The TRIO Programs: A Primer

Cassandria Dortch
Analyst in Education Policy

This report serves as an introduction to the TRIO programs. The TRIO programs are the primary federal programs providing support services to disadvantaged students to promote achievement in postsecondary education. This report provides a description of the TRIO programs, authorized in Title IV-A-2-1 of the Higher Education Act (HEA), as amended by the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA; P.L. 110-315) in 2008. Key program amendments of the HEOA as implemented through final Department of Education (ED) regulations published in 2010 are discussed. The report is intended to support congressional understanding of the programs, summarize recent evaluations and performance reports, and review the Department of Education’s progress in implementing HEOA.

In FY2012, the TRIO programs were funded at $840 million and served almost 800,000 secondary, postsecondary, and adult students. The TRIO programs have been designed to prepare qualified individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds for postsecondary education and encourage their success throughout the educational pipeline from secondary school to undergraduate and graduate education. While the TRIO programs primarily serve low-income, first-generation college students, they also serve students with disabilities, veterans, homeless youth, foster youth, and individuals underrepresented in graduate education. The TRIO programs are also designed to award prior grantees that implement successful projects and propose highquality projects with subsequent grants before awarding applicants without prior TRIO experience.

There are six TRIO programs, each serving a different demographic. The TRIO Upward Bound (UB) Program serves secondary school students, providing relatively intensive preparation services and encouragement to help students pursue education beyond secondary school. the TRIO Talent Search (TS) Program provides less intensive services than UB in support of the completion of high school and enrollment in postsecondary education, and it encourages primarily students and out-of-school youth. The TRIO Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC) Program primarily serves adults. The TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program motivates undergraduate students to complete their undergraduate education. The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement (McNair) Program prepares undergraduate students for graduate school. Finally, the TRIO Staff Development (Training) Program trains TRIO project staff to be more effective.

Several TRIO program provisions were amended through the HEOA. Two key HEOA amendments address issues pertaining to the application review process: scoring and second reviews (appeals). The first amendment defined outcome criteria that require the secretary and each grantee to agree upon objectives/targets for the criteria. The extent to which grantees meet or exceed these objectives determines the number of prior experience (PE) points the grantee may earn as part of its application in the next grant competition. Earning more PE points increases the likelihood of funding. The FY2011 TS and EOC and FY2012 UB grant competitions requested that applicants propose objectives for the statutorily defined outcome criteria. The second amendment established an application review process by which those unsuccessful applicants that can identify a specific technical, administrative, or scoring error may have their applications reviewed a second time (appealed). The FY2012 TRIO UB competition is the first to use the revised application review process.

Date of Report: September 10, 2012
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: R42724
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interest Rates on Subsidized Stafford Loans to Undergraduate Students

David P. Smole
Specialist in Education Policy

Subsidized Stafford Loans are one of the types of federal student loans made available through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (DL) program, authorized under Title IV, Part D of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). These loans are only available to students who demonstrate financial need. Since July 1, 2012, Subsidized Stafford Loans are now available exclusively to undergraduate students. The federal government “subsidizes” these loans by relieving the borrower of the requirement to pay the interest that accrues while he or she is in school and during other authorized periods.

Fixed interest rates apply to all Subsidized Stafford Loans made on or after July 1, 2006. During the period from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2008, Subsidized Stafford Loans to undergraduate students were made with a fixed interest rate of 6.8%. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (CCRAA; P.L. 110-84) set lower interest rates on Subsidized Stafford Loans made to undergraduate students during the period from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2012. Different, incrementally lower fixed interest rates were set for loans made for each award year (AY) during this period. A fixed interest rate of 3.4% applies to Subsidized Stafford Loans made to undergraduate students during the final award year affected by the CCRAA amendments, July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012 (AY2011-2012).

The interest rate reductions made by the CCRAA did not apply to Subsidized Stafford Loans that would be made on or after July 1, 2012. These loans were scheduled to be made with a fixed interest rate of 6.8%. In the 112th Congress, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21; P.L. 112-141) was enacted which set a fixed interest rate of 3.4% for Subsidized Stafford Loans made during the one-year period from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013 (AY2012-2013). The 3.4% interest rate set by MAP-21 applies only to loans made for AY2012- 2013. Under current law, all Subsidized Stafford Loans made on or after July 1, 2013, will have a fixed interest rate of 6.8%.

In the 112th Congress, there was broad support for extending, through June 30, 2013, the period during which Subsidized Stafford Loans would be made with a 3.4% interest rate. However, the process of identifying and agreeing on offsets to the resulting increase in mandatory spending proved difficult during a period in which the federal government is facing budgetary challenges. Whether to allow the 6.8% interest rate scheduled to apply to loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2013, to take effect or to enact legislation that would establish a different interest rate or interest rate formula is an issue that may be considered during the remainder of the 112th Congress or in the 113th Congress.

Date of Report: August 23, 2012
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R42515
Price: $29.95

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