UA Little Rock receives five-year grants worth more than $3.75 million to help low-income students in Pulaski and Jefferson counties

Members of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock TRIO Talent Search staff include: Back row (left to right) Crystin Amato, Michita Merriweather, Rachel Vanveckhoven, Elena Maina, Billy Huggins, and Jermaine Rudd. Front row (left to right): Brandon Scaife, Sandra Carmona Garcia, Linda Barker, and Shanikia Williams.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received two five-year grants totaling more than $3.75 million to fund college readiness programs for low-income and first-generation college students in Pulaski and Jefferson counties. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal TRIO Program awarded the grants totaling $3,762,035 to the UA Little Rock TRIO Educational Talent Search program. The grants will help more than 1,500 middle school and high school students successfully graduate high school and prepare for college.

The first grant, which serves 1,068 students in Pulaski and Jefferson counties, funds $512,408 annually for five years, totaling $2,562,040. The second grant, which serves 500 students in north Pulaski County, awards $239,999 annually for five years, totaling $1,199,995. The grants will provide funding for the 2016-17 to the 2020-21 academic years.

“By hosting the TRIO Talent Search grants, UA Little Rock continues to demonstrate a long-standing commitment to the central Arkansas community by making its resources available to those persons who face social and cultural barriers in educational attainment,” said Linda Barker, director of the TRIO Educational Talent Search and Educational Opportunity Center programs.

Talent Search, one of eight programs collectively known as the Federal TRIO Programs, is uniquely designed for students traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education, including first-generation college students and other at-risk youth.

The Talent Search Program will provide a comprehensive plan of activities for each participating student that identifies and explores future academic and career aspirations and provides plans for financial assistance, financial planning, and opportunities for engagement to bolster postsecondary enrollment.

Linda Barker
Linda Barker

Recent Census Bureau data shows the great need for the TRIO Talent Search Program in these target areas. In Jefferson and Pulaski counties, 48.3 percent of families in the first target area are considered low-income, while the national average is 17.8 percent. Additionally, 76 percent of students in the target school districts participate in free and reduced lunch programs. In the north Pulaski County target area, 47 percent of families are considered low-income, and 64 percent of students participate in free and reduced lunch programs.

On the academic side, only 26 percent of students in Jefferson and Pulaski counties are taking advanced placement courses. In the north Pulaski County target area, only 14 percent of students are taking advanced placement courses. In both target areas, post-secondary enrollment rates are lower than the state and national rates.

The UA Little Rock TRIO Educational Talent Search Program will identify students who need these services and assist in removing barriers that prevent them from obtaining a post-secondary degree. TRIO will provide a variety of higher education access workshops and activities to middle and high school students in the target schools.

The activities include admission and financial aid workshops, student achievement assessments, access to online tutoring programs, and college campus tours as well as leadership and motivational sessions. Participants in the program will be chosen based on target search requirements along with recommendations from target school officials.

In the upper right photo, members of the UA Little Rock TRIO Educational Talent Search program staff include: Back row (left to right) Crystin Amato, Michita Merriweather, Rachel Vanveckhoven, Elena Maina, Billy Huggins, and Jermaine Rudd. Front row (left to right): Brandon Scaife, Sandra Carmona Garcia, Linda Barker, and Shanikia Williams.

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