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Saving TRIO

Updated on December 4, 2017

Saving Talent Search: a Program that Promotes Post-Secondary Education

The Federal TRIO Programs are designed to provide services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO is completely funded by the U.S Department of Education. They work with students as young as 6th grade to graduate students. These wonderful programs face budget cuts every year due to “insufficient” evidence of students’ success; however, there is countless research confirming students' success through these programs.

The result of TRIO came from the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in response to the administration’s War on Poverty (2011, U.S Department of Education). It first started with Upward Bound. Talent Search was created shortly after in 1965 as part of the Higher Education Act. What is Talent Search, and what services do they offer? Talent Search is a program that “identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their post-secondary education. The program publicizes the availability of financial aid and assists participants with the post-secondary application process. Talent Search also encourages persons who have not completed education programs at the secondary or post-secondary level to enter or reenter and complete post-secondary education. The goal of Talent Search is to increase the number of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their post-secondary education (2017, U.S Department of Education)”. Some of the services they offer are:

  • Academic, financial, career, or personal counseling including advice on entry or re-entry to secondary or post-secondary programs
  • Career exploration and aptitude assessment
  • Tutorial services
  • Information on post-secondary education
  • Exposure to college campuses
  • Information on student financial assistance
  • Assistance in completing college admissions and financial aid applications
  • Assistance in preparing for college entrance exams
  • Mentoring programs
  • Special activities for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders
  • Workshops for the families of participants

There are Talent Search programs on college campuses nationwide but this article will be focusing on Talent Search at Seminole State College, located in Seminole, Oklahoma. Talent Search at Seminole State College is divided into two programs: Central (which includes the following schools: Bowlegs, Seminole, Strother, Butner, Varnum, Justice, Wewoka, Sasakwa, New Lima and Paden) and West (which includes the following schools: Shawnee, Tecumseh, Dale, Macomb, McLoud, Maud and Earlsboro). Central serves 700 students, and West serves 500 students as per the grant guidelines. Fortunately, Talent Search at Seminole State has four years left in their grant cycle, but the program will be looking at what marketing strategies can be improved as well as the program itself.


When conducting the observations, key elements were identified as to how Talent Search can be improved to ensure funding within these next four years. To maximize Talent Search’s roll in students’ lives, advisers need to be able to plan a fun but informative curriculum to be able to maintain the number of students that are required each fiscal year. This is where it gets tricky. Although the advisers are there to help the students, most students find the curriculum uninteresting or plain boring. This year, Talent Search took a step in the right direction and decided to go with a completely new curriculum. Improvements have already been shown in the students’ attitudes toward advisers and wanting to come to workshops. This is good news for Talent Search because more students attending means they are receiving more information and maximizing their chances of getting to post-secondary education. Although they are doing the absolute best they can, Talent Search has a major competitor even though they are both apart of TRIO. Upward Bound is a separate TRIO program that Seminole State College has, and Talent Search has been steadily losing their students to Upward Bound because Upward Bound has a little more to offer. They offer students a monetary stipend; they take their students on a fun trip (usually to the beach) and allow them to stay on campus in the dorms during the summer to take summer courses. Talent Search cannot do that, and that puts them in a bind because they are serving students at all the same schools. Some students want to stay in both programs, but the program does have a lot of students leaving Talent Search to just be in Upward Bound, which affects recruiting numbers. The proposition is that Talent Search develop a budget plan to be able to take their students on trips similar to Upward Bound to motivate students to stay in the program. However, the director needs to be on board, and that can be difficult if someone is not willing to give up a little time away from home for the students. It is also proposed that the advisers come together and propose the budget plan to the director, so the director has no choice but to be on board. In the end, it is all about the students and their success.

TRIO's Educational Talent Search; Success Story and what they offer

Another problem Talent Search faces, besides competitors, is the administration from the schools they visit. Observations have shown that schools' administration is the biggest obstacle. Schools are visited once a month and students are taught important information, but some schools are not too keen on the program coming in on their time, so it can be difficult to see all of the students. Due to these obstacles, it is proposed to have a handout for administration, so they can see what services are being offered. Sometimes it seems that the director and the advisers aren’t clear on what their goals are, thus handouts or monthly emails are essential. Therefore, faculty and the advisers can be on the same page and maximize success for Talent Search and students. Also, it’s imperative for the advisers to share success stories and statistics to school faculty. All of that information can be found on the U.S Department of Education website, but it needs to be more accessible to everyone.

SWOT analysis

(click column header to sort results)
Strengths • Help Students • All services are free • We are allowed more students than Upward Bound into our program • We don’t have a GPA requirement • Several employees are willing to make some changes • Services offered are beneficial to students • We can get students in our program as young as 6th grade
Weaknesses • Content is boring for students • Doesn’t offer many incentives like Upward Bound (trips & stipend) • No budget plan • The director of the program is not fully invested • Upward Bound recruits at the same schools we do • People don’t know much about TRIO • No advertising experience • No online presence
Opportunities • Rewarding as an employee of Talent Search • They have a good amount of money to be able to reward their students with really fun, educational trips • Advisors have a chance to really make a difference in a child’s life
Threats • Defunding • Upward bound • The school administration • No support from schools (teachers, principals, counselors, etc.) • The director is not invested • Losing majority of our kids to Upward Bound once they get to high school causing us to constantly recruit.

If you look at the chart above, many things are an easy fix. It is important for Talent Search to develop their online presence. Nowadays, social media is a must. Talent Search has a Facebook, but it is not utilized. They make students sign a permission slip to be able to take pictures, so they should utilize social media to show students how fun their program and advisers are. I think it’s a perfect way to let the students know their advisers better and it can allow the advisers to communicate with their students outside of school in a more conventional way. Once the advisers and director tackle these issues, it will ensure funding. It all starts with passion for students’ success


In conclusion, these programs are facing budget cuts due to insufficient evidence on student success after high school. It’s up to all TRIO employees and anyone who cares about education to spread the word and keep these programs alive. While there are challenges that Talent Search will face in the future, it is important to not lose sight of why Talent Search was created. Talent Search was created to benefit low income, first generation students and has aided students for many years. TRIO is a part of history, and we need to preserve it.


History of the Federal TRIO Programs. (2015, November 09). Retrieved November 25, 2017, from

Talent Search Program. (2017, March 28). Retrieved November 25, 2017, from

© 2017 Stephanie Dirlbeck


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