Columbia College has provided opportunities for underrepresented students to gain greater access to higher education for more than 170 years. Thanks to a recent grant, those efforts are about to expand significantly.

The U.S. Department of Education has approved the college’s application for a TRIO Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) program grant for $1.16 million over the next five years. The grant was among 126 awarded to higher-education institutions nationwide and is the first EOC funded in the region.

The grant, which will support the creation of the EOC on the college’s main campus in Columbia, will focus on serving low-income adults who are at least 18 years old and first-generation college students. The program features several resources to assist individuals who are unemployed and looking to start or resume college and participants who are interested in changing careers.

“We are proud to serve adult learners and help create a stronger workforce in mid-Missouri every day,” said Columbia College President Dr. David Russell. “The Educational Opportunity Center will play an important role in ensuring that students from all walks of life can find programs that fit their educational goals and are in route to securing a degree.”

The EOC will also provide services to improve the financial and economic literacy of participants. An important objective of the program is to counsel participants on financial aid options, including basic financial planning skills. Funding will also go toward hiring staff for the program; the college is accepting applications for the program’s project director.

This is the second TRIO grant the college has earned in the last 13 months. Its Student Support Services program received a $1.38 million grant in August 2020 to help first-generation and low-income students and students with disabilities earn their degrees in the college’s Day program.