Educational opportunity program receives additional funding

The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) received $4.4 million SUNY-wide this year from New York State. This increase in budget allowed Oswego State’s EOP to accept 32 more students than last year’s program.

“The increase in students is the most significant piece,” said Cathy Santos, interim director of EOP. “The budget is always very limiting and the need for more money is important because it allows us to fund more students to be able to go to school. From the increase from last year to this year, many more students have an access to education.”

The $4.4 million increase in funding is dispersed across all SUNY schools with EOP programs. The additional money provided to Oswego State allowed EOP to accept 113 students this year compared to the 83 students they were able to accept last year.

An EOP student is a student who is underserved and has financial challenges, meaning the student was not previously exposed to a high school and did not have adequate resources such as advanced technology or libraries. As a result, these students are considered disadvantaged.

According to Santos, the funding from New York State was only granted to EOP programs that includes summer programs. The summer program is provided to give EOP students the opportunity to experience college and make the transition.

For four weeks during the summer, students are introduced to the expectations of college life and given supplemental support to attain the needs a college environment requires, such as taking math and English classes, living in a residence hall and getting involved with the community.

The funding offers support to students through direct aid and applied to different needs such as their housing, textbooks and overall financial aid. It differs from student to student based on their financial profile. Despite this support, according to Santos, most EOP students still have to take out loans just like any typical college student.

The EOP Office also uses this funding to help provide academic planning counselors, workshops and programming to ensure that the students that are accepted get the support they need and opportunities to be successful.

“Our counselors are specialized folks to work with understanding financial aid, understanding first generation, low income and issues that come with that,” Santos said. “We work really specifically in those areas. We provide support.”

Each student is allowed to receive a maximum of $2,500 in direct aid.

Although, according to Morgan Pratt, junior EOP student, EOP peer leader and EOP admission intern, the only students who usually receive that maximum amount are first year EOP students.

“The only students who get that much money are freshmen and then each year after that you get less and less funding because EOP doesn’t have that much funding,” Pratt said.

According to Pratt, the Oswego State admissions office receives approximately 3,000 applications alone from students eligible for EOP, yet the program can only accept 120 students with the increase in funding.

Santos agrees and points out that $4.4 million might seem like a lot but when given to all of the SUNY schools’ EOP programs, it is not as much funding.

“The students who apply have to demonstrate a potential for academic success”, Santos said.

“We always want to bring in more students that have the ability and have the promise to be very success and we would like to take as many as we can,” Santos said. “I don’t think there is any question about that level of commitment.”

Every year EOP students participate in Advocacy Day where the EOP program goes to Albany and meets with the state legislators. Over 300 students there this past year told legislation about the value of EOP which contributed to an increase in our funding.

“Oswego State takes 40 students a year,” Santos said. “And they go and they have an opportunity to say how the program is important, what is it the program does, how it serves them and how it contributes to their future. We are continuously advocating to why the state has a social responsibility to support EOP.”

As a student in the program, Pratt feels that it is an encouragement to get this type of funding from the state.

“Coming from a background where you have a low economic background and you come from schooling that doesn’t fully prepare you for college level learning, the EOP program helps you raise to the challenge of college,” Pratt said. “College is really the gateway to getting into the job market so being that we are having more funding and support more EOP students, it really opens the gate for more of our young people to provide a good future for the next generation and that’s what EOP is really about.”