Who We Are

The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) is a nonprofit organization, established in 1981, dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, veterans and students with disabilities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Palau, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Its membership includes more than 1,000 colleges and agencies. Through its numerous membership services, the Council works in conjunction with colleges, universities, and agencies that host TRIO programs to specifically help low-income students enter college and graduate. 790,000 low-income students and students with disabilities each year receive college access and retention services through our member colleges and agencies.

Federal TRIO Programs (Talent Search, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math/Science, Veterans' Upward Bound, Student Support Services, Educational Opportunity Centers, and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program) help students to overcome class, social, academic, and cultural barriers to higher education.

TRIO services include — assistance in choosing a college; tutoring; personal and financial counseling; career counseling; assistance in applying to college; workplace and college visits; special instruction in reading, writing, study skills, and mathematics; assistance in applying for financial aid; and academic assistance in high school or assistance to reenter high school or college.

The work of educational opportunity organizations has contributed significant accomplishments.

  • an estimated 2 million students graduating from college;
  • the integration of 2,800 TRIO programs into college campuses, serving 790,000 students (two-thirds of whom come from families with incomes under $35,325 — family of four);
  • the establishment of performance standards that are subject to specific outcome measures. Each program's continued funding is dependent upon meeting quantifiable objectives related to college entrance and graduation rates;
  • increased national awareness of equal educational opportunity issues and diversity in colleges and universities; and
  • leveraged $800 million in FY 2013 to support TRIO Programs (up from $174.9 in 1985)


Achieve college access and success for low-income students, first-generation students, and students with disabilities.


Every young person and adult has an equal opportunity to prepare for, attend, and graduate from college. Graduation from any category of postsecondary institution is achievable and not limited by economic status, family background, or disability.

Who is Served

As mandated by Congress, two-thirds of the students served must come from families with incomes under $35,325, where neither parent graduated from college. More than 2,800 TRIO programs currently serve close to 790,000 low-income students. Many programs serve students in grades six through 12.


Goal #1 — Expand the availability and enhance the quality of college access and support services through rigorous advocacy.
Why is This Important?

College access and retention services are essential to providing true educational opportunity for all Americans, including low-income and first-generation students, veterans, and students with disabilities. At present, college access and success programs reach only a small fraction of the students and families who could benefit from them. These programs offer tutoring, personal counseling, mentoring, financial guidance, and other supports.

How Do We Plan to Achieve This?

  • Expand bipartisan Congressional support for college access and success.
  • Collaborate with the U.S. Department of Education to improve and expand college access and success services.
  • Share relevant policy research on college access and graduation rates with policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Build on our collaboration with other national advocacy organizations to lead the conversation about the importance of supportive services in college access and success.
  • Continue to help build capacity within states and chapters.
  • Involve more TRIO alumni in our advocacy efforts.

Goal #2 — Provide high-quality services and opportunities to member institutions and agencies.
Why is This Important?

As a membership organization, COE exists to support college access and success professionals and strengthen their ability to serve low-income, first-generation students. Colleges and agencies join COE not just to support our mission but to improve their programs through the myriad of training and professional development activities we provide. They benefit from receiving technical assistance to comply with federal regulations, compete in federal grant competitions, and enhance the services they deliver to students. In addition, member professionals rely on COE to connect them to national and international organizations and events.

How Do We Plan to Achieve This?

  • Identify the professional development needs of our community and improve the quality and availability of resources to members.
  • Continue to sponsor leadership activities to assist in capacity-building in the states.
  • Provide member organizations tools on how to partner with other college access and success organizations and on how to establish and engage alumni networks.

Goal #3 — Position COE as a thought leader in the field of college access and success.
Why is This Important?

If the U.S. is to remain strong economically and maintain its competitive standing, we must improve the chances of the least advantaged to access and complete a college education. As the leading national organization that focuses on college access and success, COE has an important role to play in directing the national conversation.

How Do We Plan to Achieve This?

  • Work collaboratively with business and foundations for a convening of nonprofits focused on college access and success among underserved populations.
  • Publish and disseminate policy research on college access, retention, and graduation.
  • Disseminate more broadly the lessons learned and best practices from initiatives such as the innovative GO College program and raise awareness about college access and success issues in both member and non-member institutions and agencies.
  • Encourage members of the college access and success community to take part in international professional events.

Goal #4 — Strengthen COE’s economic and organizational sustainability.
Why is This Important?

To advocate for educational opportunity in a consistent and effective manner and to serve our state and regional associations requires a stable and sustainable organization.

How Do We Plan to Achieve This?

  • Model best practices and share lessons learned on leadership transitions, staff development, partnership building, and resource development.
  • Leverage the expertise of our board and advisory group to identify new funding opportunities from corporations, foundations, and individuals interested in supporting college access and success, and cultivate relationships with these organizations and individuals.

Goal #5 — Strengthen the TRIO alumni network.
Why is This Important?

TRIO alumni — more than two million students who have graduated from college with the help of federally funded college access and success programs known as TRIO — are the most powerful and effective voices for expanded educational opportunity.

How Do We Plan to Achieve This?

  • Develop a TRIO alumni engagement plan that will tap the TRIO Achievers and other motivated alumni to build alumni networks, harness the power of alumni voices, and train alumni as ambassadors and advocates.
  • Compile and share with our member associations, states, and chapters the best practices of alumni engagement.