ETSU TRIO Program awarded Student Support Services grant through 2026

Published 4:41 pm Monday, February 15, 2021

Federal program has supported first-generation, low-income students and students with disabilities for 45 years at ETSU
JOHNSON CITY — The U.S. Department of Education has announced that East Tennessee State University will receive the federally funded Student Support Services (SSS) grant totaling $348,002 annually for five years to help more first-generation and low-income students and students with disabilities succeed and graduate. ETSU has been a recipient of an SSS grant to support traditional and non-traditional students since 1976.
The array of services the grant provides are comprehensive and include academic tutoring, financial literacy and financial aid advice, career exploration and planning, and other forms of assistance. Each year, ETSU’s TRIO staff work with over 200 students who are low-income or first-generation (those whose parents do not have a four-year college degree) or students with disabilities.
These services and one-on-one interactions enhance academic success and make it more likely that students will graduate with the lowest possible debt, says Dr. Ronnie Gross, executive director of ETSU’s TRIO programs that include the Student Support Services program.
“We are incredibly honored to continue to serve students and support them on their way to a first bachelor’s degree at East Tennessee State University. A significant number of ETSU students, and many faculty and staff, are first-generation college students. I am incredibly proud of the SSS staff and their commitment to serve ETSU students,” Gross added.
Every five years, higher education institutions must write and submit a new proposal for SSS funding to support students working toward their bachelor’s degree. Gross said ETSU’s continued improvement of retention and graduation rates for students in the Student Support Services program helped to secure continued funding.
SSS began in 1968 and is one of the eight federal TRIO programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success; it bolsters students from low-income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had, and helps students with disabilities remove obstacles preventing them from thriving academically. Many Student Support Services alumni have gone on to great success, among them Emmy, Tony and Academy award-winning actress Viola Davis, U.S. Rep. Gwendolyn Moore of Wisconsin’s 4th District and Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Hispanic astronaut.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the systemic inequality and financial hardship which keep promising students from succeeding in college. Student Support Services is needed now more than ever,” said Maureen Hoyler, the president of the non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington, D.C., dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income and first-generation students and students with disabilities.
ETSU offers seven federal TRIO programs. For more information about each, including Student Support Services, visit

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