On Monday and Tuesday, the Maine Educational Opportunity Association (MEEOA) is holding its annual professionals' conference and about 100 TRIO and Gear Up professionals, from all the way up north at Fort Kent all the way down to York, are attending.
TRIO programs and Gear Up programs are college access programs in the state of Maine that help disadvantaged students get through the pipeline from middle school all the way to a masters degree. The professional conference is in Orono because it is a central location in the state.
These are educational opportunity programs that were first created in 1965 by the Higher Education Act and according to the educational opportunity website, students who are part of TRIO programs are four times more likely to earn an undergrad degree than students from similar backgrounds who didn't participate.
And students in the TRIO Student Support Services Program are more than twice as likely to remain in college than their counterparts with similar backgrounds who are not in the program.
"We serve about 16,000 students a year. It's a lot of students who need a lot of help and we are here to meet and learn how to help them the best we can," MEEOA President Mary Kate Barbosa said.
While student financial aid programs help students overcome financial barriers to college, the TRIO and Gear Up programs help students overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education.