University receives grant for high student retention

Emily Harris/The News
Shanna Burgess, director of Student Support Services, helps students address problems.Emily Harris/The News Shanna Burgess, director of Student Support Services, helps students address problems.

Story by Alicia Steele, Contributing writer

Emily Harris/The News Shanna Burgess, director of Student Support Services, helps students address problems.

Emily Harris/The News
Shanna Burgess, director of Student Support Services, helps students address problems.

In early August, Murray State accepted a $264,807 five year renewable grant from U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield for the continuation of the TRiO program.

Every five years, Murray State is required to submit a proposal to the Department of Education. This proposal is presented to three readers who then score the proposal. If the proposal is scored high enough, Murray State receives funding to assist 186 students through the TRiO program.

The TRiO program works to increase college retention and graduation rates and ensure good academic standing of the participants.

Murray State has three TRiO programs, including Advances in Math and Science (known as AIMS or Upward Bound), the McNair Scholars Program and Student Support Services.

In order to qualify for the TRiO program, students must demonstrate a need for academic support. This can be met by being a first-generation college student, meeting federal guidelines for low-income status or by having a documented disability.

This program offers a variety of resources and services for students involved in the program including free tutoring, personal development workshops, career guidance, counseling for personal concerns and other educational resources.

“Student Support Services offers tutoring, advising, financial-aid assistance and assistance applying to graduate school,” said Shanna Burgess, director of Student Support Services.

Burgess explained that each opportunity Student Support Services is able to provide to students is government mandated, meaning that the program is given certain guidelines that must be met.

“If the objectives are not met, no funding is provided,” Burgess said.

Burgess said continuing the program at Murray State was important because the students it serves know they have a place on campus where they can get help and become more successful. 

President Bob Davies said the TRiO grant is among one of the most competitive in the country, because each university competes on the same level to receive the grant.

“We have been very successful with the TRiO grant here,” Davies said. “The people who have gone through the program are amazing.”

Bryan Beals, junior from Owensboro, Kentucky, who is not currently involved in the program, said he liked having the program at the University because it helps keep students at Murray State.

“By implementing student retention strategies, they keep first generation college students, and those with low income at the university so they can graduate with a degree,” he said.

Liana Ocampo, junior from Portland, Oregon, has been a member of Student Support Services since beginning her education at Murray State.

“As a student I like the free printing services and I love the free tutoring that I have used every semester and will continue to use,” she said. “Another thing that I find useful is the school materials that they offer for their students if they are in need”.

Ocampo said she has used the program to receive notecards, highlighters and other supplies.

“Trust me – this program has helped me so much,” she said. “I’m really happy that I found Student Support Services.”