Student Support Services Policies & Procedures


Student Support Services is one of the Federal TRiO Programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education. TRiO began in the 1960’s as a result of the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964, the original War on Poverty statute that initiated the Upward Bound program.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 followed, which provided the foundation for the Talent Search program. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 1968 led to the creation of the Special Services program, now called Student Support Services. Thus, by 1968, the original TRiO programs had been created: Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Special Services.

The original three programs have grown into eight, which now include Educational Opportunity Centers (1972), Training Program for Federal TRiO Programs (1976), Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program (1986), Upward Bound Math/Science (1990), and the TRiO Dissemination Partnership (1998).


The general purpose of TRiO programs is to provide educational access and opportunity to at-risk high school and college students who are first generation, low-income, or have disabilities. The purpose of Student Support Services is twofold: 1) to increase the retention and graduation rates of eligible students and 2) to foster an institutional climate that is supportive of first-generation, low-income students and students with disabilities.

Students must apply and be accepted to be a part of the program. SSS offers a variety of academic support services, which increase the retention and graduation rates of eligible students. Because the program is federally funded, all services are free of cost to accepted students. SSS at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is funded to serve 190 participants.

SSS at UVA Wise has been in existence since 1973 and has provided assistance to thousands of eligible students. National studies completed on the effectiveness of SSS programs reveal that participants in SSS are more than twice as likely to remain in college than eligible students who did not participate in the program.

Eligibility Criteria

A student is eligible to receive services from a SSS program if he/she:

  • Is enrolled at the College or accepted for enrollment for the next academic term
  • Is a U.S. citizen or meets the residency requirements to receive Federal financial aid
  • Is low-income, first generation or has a physical or learning disability
  • Has a need for academic support

The U.S. Department of Education requires that two-thirds of all participants be first generation and low-income or be students with disabilities. The remaining one-third may be first generation, low-income or have a disability. Of those students with disabilities, one-third must be low-income.


Identification, Recruitment, and Selection of Participants

Student Support Services staff identifies eligible students with the cooperation and assistance of the Offices of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid.

  • The Office of Enrollment Management provides SSS with the list of students who have been accepted to the College and confirmed. Information collected by both the Offices of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid is used to identify eligible students.
  • Then, a targeted pool of eligible students who have a need for academic support is identified.  Those students may meet any of the following criteria: 1) are admitted with less than a 3.0 academic GPA 2) have less than 900 on both the critical reading and math sections of the SAT 3) placement in a course for which college credit cannot be earned 4) are undecided about a major  5) are non-traditional students 6) were participants in a pre-college TRiO program (Upward Bound, Talent Search) and 7) self-identify themselves as having a need for academic support.
  • Referrals are sought from other TRiO programs in the area as well as from outside agencies, faculty, and staff.
  • SSS staff participates in the College’s summer orientation at which it introduces incoming students to the program. Students who apply to SSS and have been determined to be eligible by program staff participate in a separate SSS Orientation at which students receive academic advising.
  • Applications are evaluated on the basis of the eligibility requirements established by the Department of Education: first generation, low income, and/or disability. Participants must also have a need for academic support. This is determined by information provided on the application, transcripts, and placement and test scores. In addition, candidates are interviewed prior to selection.
  • Once accepted, students must complete an intake form (LIFE Plan) which serves as the contract by which they accept the terms of membership. Students who fail to meet the conditions of the contract or fail to receive services regularly from the program over the course of one year are placed on inactive status. Inactive students do not receive the full benefits of the program.