What is the Massachusetts Educational Opportunity Association?
Founded in 1984, the Massachusetts Educational Opportunity Association is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization made up of educators, policy makers, professionals in the private sector and other individuals committed to ensuring that secondary and post-secondary educational opportunities are appropriate and accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
MEOA currently has 120 members from across the state and is affiliated regionally with the New England Educational Opportunity Association (NEOA) and nationally with the Washington, DC-based Council for Opportunity in Education (COE).
The Need for MEOA
Revised Massachusetts public higher education admissions standards and more stringent K-12 learning standards necessitate academic support programs for students at-risk. MEOA professionals have expertise in designing and implementing educational support programs for disadvantaged students, and MEOA provides a forum in which support program designs and strategies can be shared. Furthermore, MEOA seeks to work with education policymakers to ensure that disadvantaged students are not excluded from educational opportunities by the changes mandated in education reform.
Who is served by MEOA project?
As mandated by Congress, two-thirds of the TRIO students served must come from families with incomes under $24,000, where neither parent graduated from college. There are 52 TRIO Projects in Massachusetts that serve 21,531 low-income Americans, or 6.3 percent of the low-income population. Additionally, five institutions have received five-year Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP) grants from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2004, these projects were projected to serve 11,600 eligible, low-income students (grades 6 through 11), which represent an additional 21 percent of the eligible, low-income population.
Why are these projects so important?
As most TRIO projects serve fewer than 250 students, TRIO counselors have an opportunity to work one-on-one with each student. Unlike traditional counseling programs, TRIO professionals get to know each student on a first-name basis. TRIO counselors are personally committed to the success of their students.
Each TRIO project operates against specific, measurable outcome objectives as clearly defined in each approved grant proposal. TRIO Program Directors are held accountable and must meet their stated objectives each year if they expect to remain funded and able to help participants in their targeted service area.
Targeted Toward First Generation and Low-Income
Two-thirds of the students in the TRIO projects come from families with incomes under $24,000 (family of four), where neither parent graduated from college. In most cases, parents have no higher education experience, do not understand the postsecondary process and do not necessarily value a higher education.
Built on Relationships
Over a period of several months or years, TRIO professionals build both personal and professional relationships with their students. Such positive relationships are critical to the success of every TRIO project. The staff of each TRIO project creates a climate of support for students as they strive to move out of poverty and dependence. These strong, positive relationships prompt many TRIO college graduates to return to their projects periodically to encourage and inspire current students.
Committed to Tough Cases
In most cases, students in the TRIO projects are poor and are desperately trying to climb out of “the vicious cycle of poverty in America.” Many students come to TRIO from neighborhoods that are filled with violence, discouragement, negativity and hopelessness. A single parent raising several children, an older child helping to raise younger siblings, a physically-disabled person with few financial resources and a struggling high school student trying to escape a life of poverty describe the young people and adults who turn to the TRIO projects for help and special assistance.
Consistent and Intense
TRIO projects and professionals are consistently available to their students. In fact, some TRIO projects enable students to meet with counselors during the summer, in the evening or on weekends. Many TRIO professionals, as part of their specified program objectives, visit students at home to discuss courses or career plans.
Like their students, many TRIO professionals had to overcome class, social, academic and cultural barriers to succeed in higher education. As a result, they can effectively relate to their students and know how to motivate young people and adults in spite of the obstacles that often serve to discourage students from low-income families.
Community need is determined by the community, not the federal government. TRIO projects are funded based on clear evidence that the project is needed in a particular community or town. Criteria used in determining need in a specific area include income level, education attainment level, dropout rates, student to counselor ratio, social and economic conditions, and overall demographic data.
TRIO projects do not involve a large federal bureaucracy because they are direct grant programs funded in rank order on the basis of competitive proposals. In fact, there is no more than one federal employee for every 28,000 TRIO students now being served. In addition, TRIO projects only exist where local organizations see the need for such services and have successfully applied for federal support. Despite substantial increases in the number of TRIO students and programs, fewer federal employees are working with TRIO today than 20 years ago.