An Interview with TRIO

Learning about TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) at ARCC.


Anoka-Ramsey Community College has many programs to help its students succeed, TRIO is one of these programs. TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) is a counseling service that focuses on a specific population, giving them the time, support, and resources they need. TRIO advisors help with step-by-step college planning, financial aid applications, referrals to both campus and community resources, and more.  

“Caseloads for students are a lot smaller than what [students] would find with a traditional advisor,” said Maria Strothers-Bariage, a TRIO advisor at Cambridge campus. “I get a lot more time to be able to get to know my students, really look at what they want, what their needs are.” Strothers-Bariage went on to explain. 

Applying for TRIO is a free process and you must meet one of the three qualifications. 

“Low income is defined as one and a half times, or 150% of the Federal poverty rate or Federal poverty line,” Phil Kessler, the interim director of trio student support services on the Coon Rapids Campus. He went on to say that the poverty rate varied based on the student’s situation. Kessler added that it is taxable income that is used for this application. 

“But that’s something that we help people who are applying, locate, and find and determine.” Kessler said, “We certainly don’t want the application process to be the barrier that doesn’t get someone into the program, especially someone who’s eligible and can benefit from the program.” 

The next qualification is first-generation students.  

“These are for students whose mom and dad do not have a bachelor’s degree,” Strothers-Bariage went on to say. “There’s some [parents] that have an associates, but they don’t have a bachelors, [those students] still count as a first-generation in our program,” Strothers-Bariage continued. 

The last qualification is for those who have a documented disability. 

 “This can be anything from a learning disability which of course is going to make learning in college more difficult. This can also be mental health,” Strothers-Bariage said. This also includes a physical disability. 

“But you know, working with [the Office for Students with Disabilities] isn’t a requirement for our program,” Kessler said. “The only service that trio would replace for a student is their advisor,” he went on to say. 

To be a part of TRIO, students must qualify for federal aid and meet at least one of three qualifications.  

Under the TRIO Programs link in the student resources tab on the Anoka-Ramsey website, there are two levels of TRIO. TRIO SSS is for college students and TRIO Upward Bound for high school and PSEO students. TRIO Upward Bound consists of different counselors, qualifications, and slightly different services. 

“Prior to COVID, we would have different workshops and fun events where we’d have food. We still try to have the fun events and the helpful workshops.” Strothers-Bariage said. 

“I would say in general, especially for new students that come to a school, and you see, department name like academic support center, financial aid, advising TRIO… They can kind of feel like faceless departments. But I think what I would want students to know is that they are, each and every one of them, TRIO included obviously, are filled with people who want to see students succeed.” Kessler said.