Photo courtesy UTEP

DOE awards $1.7M Grant to UTEP’s Student Support Services Program

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has awarded a $1.7 million grant to The University of Texas at El Paso’s Student Support Services Program (SSSP). This award will fund five years of the program’s operations.

“Programs like this have helped UTEP students succeed at rates that rival ‘selective’ universities,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson. “This program helps narrow the success gap for first-generation college students, and we’re pleased to be able to offer more help to students who need it.”

The SSSP offers services to low-income, first-generation college students including personal and group tutoring, workshops, peer mentoring, academic support and cultural activities with the goal to empower them to overcome challenges in order to achieve their academic and postgraduate goals.

The program, which is funded every five years, has 200 participants annually and sees turnover of about 60-70 students per year based on the number that graduate.

The students must come from a family in which neither parent earned a four-year degree, and must also meet federal family income guidelines.

“I’m extremely proud of the great work SSSP does to support students,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Gary Edens, Ed.D. “The entire team is dedicated to UTEP’s mission of providing access to an excellent education while positively impacting the local community. We appreciate the investment of resources from the U.S. Department of Education, which will help us continue our efforts to enroll, support and graduate students – many of whom are the first in their family to pursue a higher education.”

SSSP participants are identified as they enter UTEP, often through the Office of New Student Orientation and the Academic Advising Center. The students sometimes enter the University on probationary status, or have a general studies or undecided major.

“We want to work with students who we know will benefit from our program,” said SSSP Director Jaime Mendez, Ed.D., who is the grant’s principal investigator.

Once a student is admitted, they benefit from regular meetings with a peer mentor, professional development workshops, one-on-one tutoring and graduate school preparation.

The funding from the grant also enables SSSP staff to help provide access to cultural enrichment activities, such as outings at the UTEP Dinner Theatre, and the ability to help fund educational enrichment opportunities, such as academic conferences and graduate school trips.

The Federal Student Support Services program began in 1968 and is one of eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education.

The SSSP has been at UTEP since 1994, and moved to the Union Building in 2012.

Photo courtesy UTEP