Government Relations Summary

The Government Relations (G.R.) Summary is a periodic update from the Government Relations team at the Council for Opportunity in Education. Through this endeavor, we hope to keep the TRIO community up-to-date on all the latest happenings with respect to TRIO in Washington.

ED Proposes to Cut TRIO $20 Million; COE Proposes $80 Million Increase
(February 9, 2016) 

On Tuesday, February 9, 2016, President Obama released his final budget request to Congress. In the proposal, the Administration not only requests overall level funding for TRIO, but also reduces the funding allocation for virtually all of the individual TRIO programs in order to reserve $20 million to fund a “TRIO Demonstration Initiative.” In contrast, the Council will seek an $80 million funding increase for FY 2017 (Program Year 2017-2018) to restore student losses as well as the purchasing power of current grant dollars. Specifically, these funds would support:

  • Restoration of students lost in Upward Bound and Veterans Upward Bound. Currently, Upward Bound serves 3,205 fewer students than it did at its high watermark of 64,566 students in FY 2010. Meanwhile, Veterans Upward Bound serves 265 fewer students than during its high watermark of 6,831 students in FY 2012.

  • Restore the loss of 50 McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement projects. During the FY 2012 grant competition, the Department of Education cut $10 million from the McNair program, thus resulting in the loss of 50 projects and services to 1,300 college students who aspired to pursue postgraduate education.

  • Restore current Student Support Services grants to their pre-2011 funding levels. During the FY 2015 grant competition, existing grantees were limited to their FY 2012 funding level. As such, grantees must subsist on the same funding level as they did five years ago.

  • Support Talent Search grantees in providing tutoring and mentoring services. As a result of the competitive preference priorities included in the most recent grant competition, Talent Search projects must provide tutoring and mentoring services (as opposed to previous grant cycles during which grantees only had to provide students with connections to tutoring and mentoring services).

  • Restoration of overall losses in students served and program purchasing power for Educational Opportunity Centers, Upward Bound Math-Science and all other TRIO programs. Today, TRIO serves 90,000 fewer students than it did in FY 2005 (877,777 students vs. 787,449 students). During this time, the cost-of-living has increased more than 16%.

COE encourages all TRIO supporters — and particularly those who plan to apply for Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science, Veterans Upward Bound, and McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement grants — to join this fight by registering for the 36th Annual Policy Seminar. This event, which kicks-off our yearlong appropriations fight, will take place at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill on March 6-8, 2016. Click here to register online.

A Real Increase for TRIO Programs
(December 18, 2015) 

After a lengthy round of negotiations, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the FY 2016 omnibus appropriations bill, which included a $60 million funding increase for TRIO, for a total funding level of $900 million for Program Year 2016-2017. This represents the third largest increase among all programs funded within the U.S. Department of Education. (The legislation also included a $21 million increase for GEAR UP and increased the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,915.) This legislation easily passed both the House (316 to 113) and the Senate (65-33), thus signifying a clear victory for new House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

In total, this $60 million represents a 7.2% overall increase in TRIO funding. It also represents the first opportunity in eight years to provide a real increase to existing grant awards. Therefore, COE is now turning its attention to assuring that every currently-funded TRIO project is meeting its obligations to students and that the Department sees the benefit of this increase. For example, if the Department held aside $20 million of the $60 million to fund new EOC and Talent Search programs, each existing program would still see an increase in their 2016-2017 funding level of 4.9% over 2015-2016. Even though it is unknown at this time how the Department of Education will allocate these funds, it is our expectation that the Department will not only increase the field of new Talent Search and Educational Opportunity Center awards in the FY 2016 competitions, but also boost existing grant awards so that they can provide more enhanced services to even more students.

In addition to providing a substantial boost in TRIO funding, the legislation also provided guidance to the Department of Education in its accompanying report language. More specifically, Congress encouraged the Department to publish the applications for the Talent Search and EOC competitions as soon as possible and to issue grant awards by July 31, 2016. Congress also echoed our community’s concerns regarding the competitive preference priorities for Talent Search and urged the Secretary to give fair value to prior experience points.

All in all, this legislation demonstrates the very real impact of your advocacy. Just as you have reached out to ask your legislators for an increase all year long, we now ask you to contact your House Representative and Senators to offer a word of thanks for this funding increase to support low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities. Contact information for all Members of Congress is available at ( You can also reach any congressional office by dialing the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121.

In the Home Stretch
(November 2, 2015) 

During the final days of October, thanks to a strong push from advocates across the nation like you, Congress voted to raise the budget caps by $80 billion over the next two years. The House passed the bill by a vote of 266-167 and the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 64 to 35. This bill, the known as the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015,” also raised the debt ceiling until March 2017.

Now that the budget levels have been raised, Members of the Appropriations Committees in both chambers of Congress will negotiate a massive, year-end spending package known as an “omnibus bill” that will fund the entire federal government for the rest of the fiscal year.

Therefore, between now and December 11 (when the current funding bill, known as a “continuing resolution” ends), the entire TRIO community must e-mail, call, and write to their legislators to let them know the importance of receiving the $60 million funding increase approved by the House Appropriations Committee earlier this summer.

Here is a quick, three-sentence message that you can share with your legislators via e-mail or phone.

Hello, my name is __________ and I’m calling from __________ to urge __________ to support an omnibus appropriations bill that includes a $60 million increase in funding for TRIO programs.

As __________ is aware, TRIO helps over 785,000 low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities to prepare for, enter, and successfully complete college.

I know that __________ will be faced with difficult decisions about federal spending, but trust that __________ will support a $60 million increase for TRIO because [he/she] is well aware that, here in __________, TRIO works!

You can connect directly with your legislators using the portal on the COE website at (

Looking for other ways to advocate? Check out Ten Ways to Advocate for TRIO!

We need your voices now more than ever. Tomorrow is TRIO Tuesday. Please take time to share why #TRIOWORKS and, if you can, share your activities with the entire TRIO Community using the #TRIOTUESDAY hashtag via social media.

Please be on the lookout for details regarding conference calls later this week. In the meantime, please contact the GR team with any questions, inquiries or updates via e-mail ( ( or phone (202) 347-7430. Remember, it’s not over until we see that $60 million increase!

Clock Ticking for Action on a New Budget Deal
(October 13, 2015) 

Autumn got off to an eventful start as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his intention to retire from Congress on October 31, 2015. This move was pivotal in that it freed the Republican leadership to negotiate a temporary spending bill to prevent a government shutdown. At the same time, however, it also caused Members to scramble as they seek to find new leadership. Moments before the internal caucus vote, the front-runner current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) withdrew from the race. As of this writing, House Republicans continue to search for a path forward.

Meanwhile, the government continues to operate under a short-term Continuing Resolution (“CR”) that virtually level-funds all federal programs through December 11. Between now and then, it is incumbent upon all TRIO supporters — program personnel, students, alumni, community leaders, and others — to urge Congress to “raise the caps”!

Now, you may be wondering — “What does it mean to ‘raise the caps’ and why must Congress do so?”

Back in 2011 Congress passed the “Budget Control Act,” which ultimately led to the 5% cut across-the-board cut (“sequestration”) that we experienced in FY 2013 (Program Year 2013-2014). Realizing that this funding scenario was not workable, Congress then passed the “Bipartisan Budget Control Act,” which provided temporary by increasing the amount of money Congress could spend in Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015.

That is, Congress “raised the caps” for two years.

Now that it is Fiscal Year 2016, Congress is, once again, subject to tight spending limits. Therefore, the only way that TRIO will be able to receive the $60 million funding increase approved by the House Appropriations Committee is if Congress strikes a new budget deal to “raise the caps.”

For ideas about how you can reach out to your legislators, visit ( For more background on the current budget crisis, visit ( and (

Appropriations Action on Capitol Hill
(July 1, 2015) 

On Wednesday, June 17, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (“LHHS”) met to “markup” its FY 2016 bill. As a result of lower spending caps, this year’s LHHS bill saw a $3.7 billion reduction in funding. However, due to our continuous advocacy efforts, TRIO programs received a $60 million increase (for a total of $900 million) in the proposed funding legislation. Multiple Members supported the increase to TRIO including Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK-4) who noted TRIO as a “priority investment” Document is available for download (.pdf) in his opening statement. Full Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY-5) applauded the increase commenting, “rightly so” to the proposed 7% increase to TRIO and GEAR UP [00:26:30-44]. Meanwhile, Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA-2) also praised Chairman Cole’s support of TRIO and GEAR UP, noting their “shared... interest [in] getting young people headed in the right direction” [1:10:45-55].

When it met the following week, the full Appropriations Committee in the House affirmed this $60 million funding increase for TRIO. That same week, however, the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee met to mark up its FY 2016 bill. In the Senate Subcommittee bill, which was confirmed by the Committee as a whole, TRIO was level-funded at the FY 2015 appropriation of $840 million.

Despite this recent action in the House and Senate, it is highly unlikely that either bill will be considered on the floor of its respective chamber. Rather, Republicans and Democrats have “plunged headfirst into an epic summer spending bill”. Democrats have vowed to block every funding measure until Republicans agree to negotiate a broad, bipartisan budget deal that adjusts the spending caps which severely limit the dollars available for domestic priorities. Due to this standoff we expect that there will be at least a short term “continuing resolution” to ensure the government remains open after the beginning of the next fiscal year on October 1, 2015.

Will we get a $60 Million increase? Only you can decide.

Congress will be in recess from July 31 to September 7 this summer. This is valuable time to put TRIO at the forefront of legislators’ minds. Therefore, we urge you to continue inviting your Members of Congress to campus, visiting their offices, attending their town halls and letting them know TRIO WORKS!

Need help? Have questions on how to get started? Contact our Government Relations team via e-mail [Kimberly Jones at ( and Selene Ceja at (] or by phone at (202) 347-7430 for assistance, or to just to let us know how you are making TRIO advocacy work!

The Government Relations team at the Council is always here to assist you. Please feel free to e-mail them at any time — Kimberly A. Jones ( and Heath Alexander ( You may also reach them by calling our D.C. office directly at (202) 347-7430.