Murray State University awarded $554,750 to help low-income, potential first-generation college students access higher education

Murray State University awarded $554,750 to help low-income, potential first-generation college students access higher education

By Shawn Touney | Oct 1, 2021

MURRAY, Ky. — The U.S. Department of Education announced that Murray State University will receive two federal Talent Search grants of $277,375.00 each to help more low-income students who would be the first members of their families to earn degrees to prepare for and enroll in college. Talent Search East will serve 500 students in the Christian, Todd and Trigg County school districts; Talent Search West will serve 500 students in the Carlisle, Fulton County, Fulton Independent, Hickman, Mayfield Independent and Paducah Public school districts. Talent Search has operated successfully at Murray State since 2016.

One of the Federal TRIO Programs, Talent Search identifies and assists middle and high school students who have the potential to succeed in higher education. At least two-thirds of the students in each local Talent Search program are from low-income economic backgrounds and families in which neither parent has a bachelor's degree. Talent Search provides these students with advising as well as information about college admissions requirements, scholarships and various student financial aid programs so that they can better understand their educational opportunities and options. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 80% of Talent Search participants enroll in postsecondary institutions immediately following high school graduation. In fiscal year 2020, more than 309,000 students are enrolled in 473 Talent Search TRIO projects in the United States. 

“We are excited to continue the important work of providing college access and success services to students in western Kentucky. Postsecondary education offers students a variety of options, including 1-year certification programs, vocational or technical degrees, 2-year associate’s degrees and 4-year bachelor’s degrees, and our goal is to assist students in exploring these options and preparing them in the most successful way possible,” explains Audrey Neal, TRIO Talent Search Director at Murray State University.

“As systemic inequality and financial hardship discourage students from succeeding in college, TRIO programs like Talent Search take on new importance because they continue to help students who are low-income and first-generation to earn college degrees,” said Maureen Hoyler, president of the nonprofit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) in Washington, D.C. COE is dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities nationwide.

Many Talent Search alumni have gone on to great success, among them former U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla from Texas and former Oklahoma State Senator and State Representative Kenneth Corn, one of the state’s youngest in history.

Talent Search began in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty. It was the second of eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success, bolsters students from low-income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had and helps remove obstacles preventing students from thriving academically.

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