Each year, VAEOPP encourages its members to advocate for TRIO participants by inviting their Congressional representatives to visit their campus or to attend events conducted by representatives in their home districts. On November 17, 2014, SSS Directors, staff, and students from Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Tidewater Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, and Virginia State University updated Congressman Robert C. Scott on our concerns relative to the SSS Grant Draft. Mikael Davis, Virginia Keithley, Kay Williams, and Kimberly Jones, Legislative Liaison for COE, provided the Congressman with a series of specific concerns regarding the weight and content of the Competitive Preference Priorities, as well as three specific requests for the current competition. We know that Congressman Scott took our concerns seriously because when Congressional appropriators released the FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Act, the legislation included two key provisions relating to TRIO.
Of particular concern to SSS programs, the Department of Education was instructed to release the final application for the Student Support Services program by December 18, 2014 and to make all grant awards (including grants earned through the review process) by August 10, 2015. The legislation also provided $839.7 million in TRIO funding, representing a $1.5 million increase. According to Maureen Hoyler, COE President, this funding increase was significant as overall funding for the Department of Education was cut by $166 million and several key programs within the bill – such as GEAR UP, SEOG, Head Start, and low-income heating assistance (LIHHEAP) – received level-funding. It should also be noted that several other strongly supported programs, such as Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and Pell Grants, all received funding cuts. In Maureen’s words “this bill represents a triumph of TRIO advocacy and our community is to be commended.”