I am writing to address the article Analysis of the SSS Program written in the Feb. 5 Counterweight. The St. Olaf College Educational Opportunity Programs TRiO/Student Support Services [SSS], TRiO/Educational Talent Search, TRiO/Upward Bound and GEAR UP are supported by the St. Olaf College Board of Regents and the administration. Moreover, the TRiO programs receive bipartisan support in Congress, including from Minnesota Second District Representative John Kline.
I would also like to mention some of the specific inaccuracies found in the article. I am particularly disappointed that this article was printed with factual mistakes as I offered to read it for accuracy before it was printed, but was told this was against Counterweight policy.
The article states that the selectivity of the SSS raises some suspicion in the way it decides whom to invite. Response: SSS invites all eligible students that it can identify through Admissions and Financial Aid to apply for the program during Week One of students first year.
The article states, The program usually admits a couple of Caucasians each year and the racial composition of students served nationally by TRiO is about half Caucasian... Response: This year, 28 percent of St. Olaf SSS students are Caucasian, compared with 37 percent nationally. It is important to note, however, that race is not a factor considered for admission to the SSS program. To be eligible for the SSS program, students must meet federal income guidelines, be in the first generation of their family to attend college and/or or have a disability.
The majority of TRiO/SSS funding is through the U.S. Department of Education, which requires the program to follow strict guidelines. Due to these guidelines, students must be permanent residents or citizens of the United States in order to participate in the SSS program. Thus, serving students from other countries, as Mr. McDonald suggests, would be against federal regulations. However, a large number of SSS students (approximately 50% of SSS participants) immigrated to the United States or have parents who immigrated here.
The article states that every semester, SSS provides certain textbooks ... and even paid trips to visit graduate schools across the country. Response: SSS does not provide textbooks to students during the academic year, and students fundraise and pay for a portion of graduate school visits.
The articles states, SSS students take a biology class together along with remedial English lessons. Response: The Summer Bridge Writing Workshop is an introduction to college writing and is not considered remedial.
For more information about the St. Olaf College TRiO/SSS program, please visit our website at www.stolaf.edu/services/sss.
Kathy R. Glampe, Director
TRiO/Student Support Services (SSS)