The History of TRIO

North and South Hall

About the TRiO Scholars Program

TRiO logo

The TRiO Scholars Program, also known as Student Support Services (SSS), was established on the UC Davis campus in 2005 with a 5-year $1.1 million federal grant from the US Department of Education. The program is funded to serve 160 first-generation and low-income undergraduates from entry to the university to graduation.

The purpose of the program is to assist TRiO Scholars adjust to university life and become successful in their academic pursuits. The goals of the program are to provide academic support services that will aid in retention and graduation, create a supportive learning environment, aid in developing an appreciation for diversity, and expose students to cultural and social experiences.

The program consists of an academic and summer residential program for incoming students. During the academic year, TRiO Scholars meet quarterly to discuss academic, personal, and career goals with program advisers. Other program offerings include individual tutoring, learning skills workshops, and seminar courses. 

All program services are aligned with the three components of the program:

Academic Excellence

TRiO Scholars draw on program services to achieve academic excellence. Program services support students in maintaining good academic standing and in persisting to graduation.

Community Building

Forming a rich community of scholars, TRiO students develop a network that instills a sense of belonging among the first-generation student community. 

Financial Empowerment

TRiO students take financial responsibility by developing the knowledge and skills to make informed and fiscally responsible decisions.

History of Federal TRiO Programs

The TRiO Programs are educational equity programs federally funded through the Department of Education. They are designed to support first-generation and low-income students on their path to college graduation. TRiO includes five distinct outreach programs targeted to serve and assist students to progress from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs.

Student Support Services is one of the original “TRiO” programs created by the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act. “TRiO” was named in the late 1960s with the establishment of the first three programs – Educational Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Student Support Services. Additional programs such as the Educational Opportunity Centers, and Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program were established later, but the “TRiO” nickname/brand persisted. It is important to note that UC Davis is a TRIO powerhouse because it has four TRiO programs, TRiO Scholars Program (Student Support Services), McNair Scholars, and two pre-college programs, Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search.

The history of TRiO is progressive. It began with Upward Bound, which emerged out of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in response to the administration's War on Poverty. In 1965, Educational Talent Search, the second equity program, was created as part of the Higher Education Act. In 1968, Student Support Services, originally known as Special Services for Disadvantaged Students, was authorized by the Higher Education Amendments and became the third in this series of educational equity programs. By the late 1960s, the term "TRiO" was coined to describe these three federal programs.

Over the years, the TRiO Programs have been expanded and improved to provide a wider range of services and to reach more students who need assistance. The Higher Education Amendments of 1972 added the fourth program to the TRiO group by authorizing the Educational Opportunity Centers. Amendments in 1986 added the sixth program, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. Additionally, in 1990, the Department of Education created Upward Bound Math/Science and Veterans Upward Bound to address the need for specific instruction in the fields of math and science and veterans returning to education after active duty, respectively.