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LHU News

LHU receives five-year TRIO grant to assist first-generation college students

Trio Staff Image
TRIO’s professional team during the 2019-20 academic year (left-to-right), including program assistant Marianne Guinter, director Dr. Julie Story, and writing specialist Dr. Rachel Epstein.

Lock Haven University’s Department of Social Work & Counseling has received a five-year (2020-2025) Student Support Services (SSS) grant award for $338,971 per year from the U.S. Department of Education.

The SSS program is supported by additional funding and services from Lock Haven University, which has been the recipient of SSS funding since 1980. Student Support Services is a federal TRIO program funded to provide 230 eligible LHU students comprehensive resources for success in higher education from freshman year through graduation.

This fall will mark the 40th anniversary of the program at LHU.

“We are very pleased that Lock Haven University’s TRIO grant application was selected for funding,” Dr. Robert Pignatello, LHU President, said. “First, I would like to commend Dr. Julie Story for her work with TRIO SSS for the last 17 years. This grant award is worthy of great celebration and appreciation. TRIO SSS is such an important part of how we help so many of our students succeed. I look forward to continuing to build up our capacity to provide students the services and support they need to realize their potential and their dreams.”

“I’ve had the great honor of working with TRIO SSS at LHU for 17 years,” said Dr. Julie Story, director of TRIO SSS at LHU. “Dr. Rachel Epstein, Marianne Guinter, and I are thrilled that the good work of TRIO SSS will continue at Lock Haven University to support students’ academic achievement, retention, and graduation.”

Per federal guidelines, participants could be first-generation college students, have limited incomes, documented disabilities or a range of academic needs. Resources cover academic, sociocultural, financial, career and personal development. Students who are selected for the program gain valuable access to an array of success workshops in these areas, along with writing assistance, educational trips, tutoring, advising, financial aid, the working professionals’ program and peer mentoring.

The heart of the TRIO SSS team is 12 peer mentors, who guide and assist students during their adjustment to college life and learning, beginning with the Best Foot Forward (BFF) extended orientation and the First Year Forward program. Upper division students focus on financial and career planning in the Leaps and Bounds program.

The goals of the TRIO SSS program are to boost students’ grade point averages and rates of remaining in college until graduation. The SSS grant is about educational equity. It allows first-generation students and others to consider postsecondary education and earn a college degree that opens the door for a lifetime of career and economic empowerment. The SSS program has a positive impact not only on student participants, but also their families and future generations. 

President Pignatello recently had the opportunity to welcome the LHU TRIO students back to campus and in doing so, he shared his personal connection to TRIO.

Pignatello himself was a first-generation college student, who praised the efforts of TRIO at The Haven during the Zoom welcome session. “So many students have benefited from TRIO at LHU and have come back as alumni to inspire us with their stories of success,” commented Pignatello.

Additionally, President Pignatello announced a newly formed Student Success Center, where Dr. Story will serve as the coordinator. There she will oversee student support services in key areas within academic affairs that promote retention, including Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), disability services, counseling services, tutoring, TRIO and the writing and math centers. “Student retention is a key priority of ours”, said Pignatello who noted that first to second year retention has increased by 10.5% over the past two years. “By putting these related services under Dr. Story in a more coordinated manner, we will continue to build on this success.”

Under Story’s leadership, the Student Success Center will coordinate support services to ensure a streamlined and integrated approach. She will work collaboratively with the enrollment management student affairs division, faculty and administration to coordinate and promote services across all university departments. In her role, Story will look to improve communication and programming related to support services, all in an effort to improve retention at LHU.

For more information on Lock Haven University, visit, email, or call 570-484-2011. 

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Lock Haven University’s main campus is located on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in the scenic mountains of Pennsylvania. The university offers 49 undergraduate majors and certifications with 47 minors and five graduate programs.

LHU is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System, the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas of study. Nearly 520,000 system alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.

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Executive Director of Strategic Communications

Elizabeth Arnold
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(570) 484-2293

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