UM Awarded Federal Grant to Support Disadvantaged Students

Mikalen Running Fisher, a UM junior majoring in Native American Studies, credits the TRIO program for her academic success.

MISSOULA – The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the University of Montana a federal Student Support Services grant of $485,336 to help disadvantaged students succeed in college.

SSS helps college students who are low income, first generation (those whose parents do not have a four-year college degree) or students with disabilities. The array of services the grant provides are comprehensive and include academic tutoring, financial aid advice, career and college mentoring, help with choosing courses and other forms of assistance.

These services enhance academic success and make it more likely that students will graduate or transfer with the lowest possible debt. UM’s TRIO Student Support Services Program has been a long-standing program at UM for the past 43 years and has supported over 5,000 students.

Browning native Mikalen Running Fisher, a junior majoring in Native American Studies with a minor in communication, credits the TRIO program for her academic success.

“I was really struggling my freshman year and didn’t know where to go. They helped me school wise and introduced me to a lot of valuable services,” said Running Fisher, who wants to return home to her reservation to teach the Blackfeet language and cultural heritage.

Darlene Samson, director of UM’s TRIO Student Support Services Program, said helping students like Running Fisher succeed and graduate is gratifying, but she and others in her field worry about the impact COVID-19 will have on the students they help, many of whom have limited resources at their disposal.

“The funding we get is always needed, but during this pandemic they are needed now more than ever,” she said. “This program is vital to higher education. It can and does make a difference.”

SSS is one of the 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. It also bolsters students from low-income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had, and helps students with disabilities navigate obstacles preventing them from thriving academically.

Many SSS alumni have gone on to great success, among them Emmy, Tony and Academy-Award winning actress Viola Davis, U.S. Rep. Gwendolyn Moore of Wisconsin’s 4th District and Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Hispanic astronaut.


Contact: Darlene Samson, director, TRO SSS-University of Montana, 406-243-4199,