Spoon River College celebrated National First-Generation Day November 8, which is the day when the Higher Education Act of 1965 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson, providing federal funding with a goal of strengthening resources and making college more accessible to all students.

It is estimated that 55% of college students identify as first-generation, meaning that their parents did not complete a four-year college or university degree. In the fall of 2022, 46% of the students at Spoon River College were first-generation students.

Jill Olson, director of the TRIO Student Support Services program at the college, said that can have a significant effect on students as historically, first-generation students have lower retention and graduation rates than continuing-generation students.

“They are less likely to be familiar with college processes, like the FAFSA and how to get financial aid in place. It can be overwhelming, and TRIO helps students navigate these systems and processes. Helping at risk students overcome as many of these barriers as possible increases their chances of successfully completing a college degree or a certificate program.”

Olson and TRIO advisors Brandy Chasteen and Johna Lawens held cake and punch celebrations on the Canton and Macomb campuses to mark the occasion, with all students and staff invited, and shared profiles of students who were first generation college attendees on the TRIO SSS social media pages. Free bowling was also offered to all SRC students at Linn Lanes in Canton and at College City Bowl in Macomb.

TRIO is a federally funded program designed to help students overcome social, academic, class, and cultural barriers in higher education. Participants in the program are provided with personalized advising for career, transfer, and degree planning, and workshops covering topics ranging from personal financial literacy to time management and study tips are offered. Professional math and science tutors as well as peer tutors are available for both one-on-one and group study opportunities.

TRIO advisors place an emphasis on preparing students to transfer, aiding in selection of the correct transfer classes to take and traveling with students to visit four-year universities. Eligible transfer students who are TRIO members can have their application fees to their four-year schools waived.  Cultural outings, including to museums and art exhibits (at no expense to students), are part of the program, and members regularly participate in community service projects.

“Our off-campus trips enable the TRIO students to connect socially with other students, while exposing them to experiences they may have never taken part in on their own,” said Olson.

TRIO participants are also eligible for an exclusive scholarship program and have access to a private computer lab and study space, free printing, and are able to borrow textbooks, graphing calculators and voice recorders. In 2020, the program introduced a laptop lending program that has been highly utilized by students.

“TRIO works with each student where they are at,” Olson said. “If the student wishes to use all our services, we are happy to cater to that. If they only need transfer assistance, we can provide that for the student. Each student’s academic journey and needs are different, and we work to meet each student’s individual needs while they are at Spoon River College.”

“Our goal is to improve the academic success of our students so they can successfully graduate and transfer to a four-year university. Since this program was initiated in 2010, we have served close to 1,100 students.”

To learn more about the TRIO program, visit www.src.edu, or contact Jill Olson at jill.olson@src.edu or 309-833-6029.