14 Montana Colleges Receive $4.2 Million to Increase Student Retention, Tester Announces

Tester Announces Funding will support low-income & first-generation students, individuals with disabilities in postsecondary education

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today secured $4,272,094 in Department of Education TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) funding for 14 Montana colleges and universities to increase college retention and graduation rates for low-income Montanans across the state. Current SSS funding is slated to run out on August 31st.

“My parents always said—and I still believe—that public education is the great equalizer in this country,” said Tester, a former Big Sandy school teacher. “Now, as Co-Chair of the Congressional TRIO Caucus, I’m proud to have led the fight to secure this funding that will help make sure Montanans who are from low-income backgrounds, are first generation students, or have disabilities can access a world class education at Montana’s colleges and universities.”

The SSS program provides opportunities for academic development, assists students with basic college requirements, and serves to motivate students to complete their postsecondary education.

The funding Tester secured will be allocated to 14 Montana colleges and universities, including:

  • University of Providence: $209,091
  • Fort Peck Community College: $322,065
  • University of Montana Western: $294,725
  • Montana Tech: $261,887
  • Rocky Mountain College: $346,366
  • Flathead Valley Community College: $384,759
  • Montana State University Billings: $261,888
  • Chief Dull Knife College: $168,312
  • University of Montana: $485,336
  • Montana State University Billings: $362,740
  • Montana State University-Northern: $261,888
  • Montana State University: $261,888
  • Helena College University of Montana: $261,888
  • Salish Kootenai College: $347,504

For the past two years, Senator Tester led the funding request for TRIO, which runs the SSS Program:

“SSS has demonstrated its capacity to enable students to persist and ultimately graduate from college,” Tester wrote. “…Additionally, SSS participants outperformed other low-income and first-generation students and students with disabilities who did not participate in these programs in degree completion at both two-year and four-year colleges…we respectfully request your support of robust funding for TRIO in FY 2020.”

As the Senate Co-Chair of the Congressional TRIO Caucus, Tester has led the push to fund the program for years, and in 2018 he successfully reversed a decision by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to deny funding to the University of Montana TRIO program due to simple formatting errors in an application. Recently, he led a group of his colleagues in asking for emergency TRIO funding to support students during the pandemic.