The State University of New York (SUNY) is expanding its Education Opportunity Program (EOP) budget by $6.4 million across five SUNY campuses, including Stony Brook University (SBU), for spring 2022 to support an additional 1,000 students next year.
This expansion is the biggest the program has seen since it was created in 1967. Growing the program is the goal but there are many factors that need to be considered, such as enrollment and state budgets. EOP’s success will need the collaboration of everyone involved according to Pamela Matzner, the director of EOP at Stony Brook. Enrollment is a crucial factor in expanding the program.
“In order for us to grow the program, everyone needs to be on the same page,” Matzner said, adding that legislators need to see EOP as a worthy investment. In order for this to happen, the number of students applying to EOP needs to reflect the interest shown in the program.
An important element of the expansion of EOP will be focused on creating a student persistence fund. The fund, which consists of $2 million, will be used to help students who are at greater risk of dropping out due to financial circumstances.
Socioeconomic factors often influence the decision of students to continue their higher education. EOP has supported more than 77,000 students across the SUNY system to attend a two or four year college, according to a SUNY press release. EOP financial aid packages for students are based on individual household income.
Cristal Norton, a psychology and pre-nursing student said that EOP helps her the most financially and is glad the program is expanding.
“As a person who is independent of their family, college gets pricey,” Norton said. “The process [to join EOP] wasn’t long and I knew I didn’t have the funds to pay for college without the program.”
According to Matzner, there are many layers involved in the EOP expansion.
“The expansion is a gradual process and will not impact SBU just yet,” she said.
EOP at SBU helps students with tutoring, academic or financial counseling and provides a mentorship program. EOP students are offered financial support to cover the cost of tuition according to Stony Brook’s EOP’s official website, and overall EOP funds are supported by New York State Education. Students are given information and guidance about their financial aid packages before starting college.
EOP exists to offer students in the program the chance of getting new experiences and developing skills.
“I was a teaching assistant in the summer to help them,” Norton said. “It really changed my perspective on the entire program. It was an amazing opportunity to gain leadership skills and help incoming students.”
Another EOP service aimed at supporting students is the summer academy for incoming freshmen. It is not yet determined whether this service will be directly funded by the expansion. The summer academy program accepts students based on the number of graduating students in EOP and the budget given by the overseeing EOP administration for the state. The program allows students to get familiar with campus before the fall semester starts and prepare them for their college experience.
Chelsea Boakye, a junior journalism student, thinks the expansion is a good idea. She believes the program will allow incoming students to get the necessary sense of community that she felt EOP provided her with.
“I come from a place where I usually see people who look like me and so coming to Stony Brook was definitely a change, one I was willing and definitely open to but it was just new for me,” Boakye said. “I think sharing that experience with other people who were in the same predicament just made it easier as we are able to learn together that way.”
The EOP has several pilot programs currently underway, including their pre-medical opportunity program which started this past summer 2021 semester. The program is intended to support EOP students in medical school admissions.
The new initiative will affect its first class this spring 2022.