Federal Education Assistance Programs: Pell Grants + TRIO

There are programs the federal government runs to help college students pay for their education. These programs are created to support low-income and first-generation college students and offer focused assistance for prospective and current college students. Examples of these programs are the Pell Grant and TRIO programs.

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This article will help students make the most of their financial aid while they earn a college degree.
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Pell Grant

The Pell Grant program is a financial aid program undergraduate students apply for by completing a FAFSA. The FAFSA works based on the applicant’s expected family contribution to school expenses, program length, and whether the program will be run full-time or part-time.
To maintain eligibility, the FAFSA has to be submitted every year to get federal education assistance.


To be eligible for a Pell Grant, the following have to be true about the student. The student must:

  • Complete the FAFSA
  • Be a current undergraduate college student or will be an undergraduate college student at an accredited school.
  • Not have a bachelor or professional degree.
  • Not currently be in prison or jail.
  • Not be subject to involuntary civil commitment following jail time because of a committed sexual offense.
  • Have a financial need
  • Have a GED, high school diploma, or its equivalent from a home school.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or have a qualified immigrant status.
  • To maintain eligibility status after qualifying for a Pell Grant, the student must:

  • Continue enrollment in the school.
  • Complete a FAFSA every year while in school.
  • Make significant academic progress while in school.
  • Continue to meet the Pell Grant criteria that allowed for an awarding of the grant in the first place.
  • There might be tax benefits working in your favor if you qualify for a Pell Grant, so it is advisable to speak with a trusted tax advisor before filling those taxes.


TRIO originated from the first three programs known as Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search, and Special Services. These three programs have now been grown into eight, supporting first-generation college students, low-income middle and high schoolers, and children with disabilities.
Students from the middle school level to the doctoral level who meet the eligibility requirements for TRIO programs are awarded grants each year.

TRIO Programs and Requirements

Eligible students can take part in TRIO programs through schools or organizations in the community.

Upward Bound
Upward-bound programs mainly serve college-bound high schoolers with limited English proficiency, those in foster care, those from underrepresented groups, and homeless students.

Eligible participants have to be between ages 13 and 19, come from a low-income family, and need academic support.

Student Support Services
The student support service programs serve to motivate students to complete a postsecondary degree. It works to increase college retention and graduation rates for students.

To meet eligibility requirements, students must be accepted or enrolled in a postsecondary school. People with a Pell Grant and those with disabilities who show an academic need qualify for this program. Participants must also be permanent residents of the United States or citizens.

Talent Search
The aim is to help students graduate from high school, pursue a college degree and graduate from college. It encourages people with incomplete secondary and postsecondary education to return to school.

Participants must be between ages 11 and 27 and must come from low-income families where neither parent has a bachelor’s degree.

Educational Opportunity Centers
This program is for adults who want to go to college and college students who are pursuing a degree. It offers tutoring, career workshops, personal counseling, academic advice, and mentoring to participants.

To be eligible for this program, participants must be at least 19 years old. Requirements also favor low-income and first-generation students.

Training Program for Federal TRIO Programs
The training program for the TRIO programs funds organizations to train project directors and staff working in the TRIO program. Internships, grants, conferences, seminars can all be funded through the program. Anyone who serves as a worker in the program is eligible to participate in the training programs.

Veterans Upward Bound
The Veterans Upward Bound program is aimed at increasing the number of veterans who go to college and earn a degree by building their academic and college-readiness skills. They strengthen sure subject knowledge through tutoring.

Eligibility requirements to participate in the program include being a military veteran who served in active duty in the Armed Forces or being a member of the reserve component called to active duty that lasted over 30 days. Participants must also be low-income first-generation students.

Upward Bound Math-Science
It encourages people to develop their potential in math and science and pursue degrees in this area. It strengthens and builds their mathematical and scientific skills. Resources like mentoring, personal counseling, and tutoring are also available to participants.

Eligibility requirements favor high schoolers who have completed eighth grade, are from low-income families, and are potential first-generation college students.

Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program
The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is to support college students interested in going for doctorate programs. People with strong academic potential who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are offered research and scholarly opportunities and assisted in enrolling in graduate programs.

To be eligible, participants must be first-generation students, come from a low-income family, or an underrepresented group in graduate education.

How to Apply for a TRIO Program

Upward Bound
Applications can be sent directly through the college program provider or students can check their local college’s website to obtain a school-specific application and program information.

Student Support Services
Application to this program can be sent directly through the college or university the student is currently enrolled in.

Talent Search
Information about the application process should be checked with their respective program providers (college or university) and submitted to this provider. Applications can also be accessed through high school guidance counselors.

Educational Opportunity Centers
A college or university provider for this program should be contacted and then an application can be downloaded or filled online.

Training Program for Federal TRIO Programs
A visit to the U.S. Department of Education website to register for training opportunities is an applicant’s best bet.

Veterans Upward Bound
Applications can be sent either through the students’ current colleges or universities or through the program provider’s website.

Upward Bound Math-Science
Students who are interested in the program can go to their school’s website to apply online or download an application form to apply offline.

Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program
Firstly, students should check if their current school participates in the program. If the school participates, students can apply through their school’s application process. They usually have to submit an application form, recommendations, transcriptions, and proof of their eligibility.

The Future of These Programs

Although proposals have been made to cut federal funding and immediately end these financial aid programs, the programs have remained intact so far.

In 2017, the Pell Grant award funding was increased by a little over $6,000 but this increase is not of much consequence because of the constant rise in postsecondary education cost.

Even though there have been demands to shut down these programs, resistance to the requests have been encouraging. Therefore the program and grants are safe for now. However, their survival might be tested over a long period.

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