ORONO, Maine — Luelen Suchan wouldn’t be in college without the help she’s received from student support programs at the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
The 20-year-old education major said Saturday that she has benefited from the federally funded TRIO-Student Support Services programs at both institutions.
“Seeking out their help is one of the best things I could have done,” Suchan said. “They’ve given me advice on everything from what to do about roommate problems to financial aid to making sure I was in the right classes to improving my study and note-taking skills.”
She is one of 400 students at UMaine who will be helped this year through the program, which is designed to support first-generation, low-income students and students with disabilities and help them earn bachelor’s degrees, according to Alan Parks, program director.
Parks announced recently that UMaine’s program had received $3 million from the Education Department’s Office of Postsecondary Programs for five years through 2015. In addition to the federal funding, the program also receives about $25,000 a year from university resources,
“We’re helping address the needs of the state of Maine with college educations for more at-risk students,” Parks said last week. “The Department of Education defunded 120 current programs nationally, so it was pretty exciting that we got it. The competition was fierce.”
TRIO is not an acronym but refers to the original three programs — Educational Talent Search, Upward Bound and Student Support Services — funded as part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty in the 1960s. Although there now are eight programs under the TRIO umbrella, the name has not changed.
Since 1970, more than 10,000 UMaine students have received academic skills-building services, financial aid counseling and financial literacy workshops, financial aid grants, individualized academic and career planning, and peer mentoring services designed to help assure success, according to Parks.
“I had to work so hard to get here,” Suchan said Saturday, “and I have to work so hard to stay but I probably wouldn’t still be here without TRIO and Student Support Services.”
Suchan was born on Long Island in Coram, N.Y. When she was 10 years old, the family moved to the small town of Granville, N.Y., a small town on the Vermont border.The second of five children, she was home-schooled for most of her life and wanted to go to college but had problems in New York matching the education overseen by her mother to course credits.
Two years ago Suchan move to St. Agatha to live with an aunt. She earned her high school diploma through the adult education program in Fort Kent, learned to drive and established residency in Maine. When Suchan applied to UMFK in fall 2009, she was referred to the TRIO-Student Support Services. She sought out the program in January when she transferred to the Orono campus.
Suchan said she is determined to stay in school and plans to graduate in 2013. Because she wants to concentrate on her studies and must hold down a part-time job on campus, Suchan has limited herself to 12 credit hours per semester but plans to enroll in summer courses as she did this year to stay on target for graduation.
According to graduation statistics provided by Parks, Suchan is more likely to accomplish that goal because of the assistance she’s receiving from TRIO-Student Support Services. The graduation rate of those enrolled in the program is 68.5 percent compared to 59.6 percent graduation rate for all UMaine students. The graduation rate of students eligible for the program is nearly 10 percent higher than those who are not eligible.
On the web: www.umaine.edu/sss/