State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Jim Malatras and the Board of Trustees announced Wednesday a comprehensive plan to expand the Education Opportunity Program as a result of the state’s recent funding increase of $6.4 million, marking the largest single investment and most significant expansion of EOP since the inception of the program.
The plan, which will begin with the first-ever Spring 2022 class, will improve access by increasing overall enrollment by 1,000 students, adding programs to five SUNY community colleges, and meeting students’ needs on their schedule with a spring semester cohort. It will establish a $2 million Student Persistence Fund to help EOP students who are at greatest risk of dropping out due to unforeseen financial circumstances, ranging from $50 to a maximum of $2,000 per student, and increase the funding per EOP student from $2,600 to $2,800.
The plan will also double SUNY’s Pre-Medical Opportunity Program, create a statewide EOP Student Ambassadors Program, purchase laptops to mitigate technology gaps, and hire 15 additional counselors across the state.
“This is truly exciting for Stony Brook’s program, for students coming through our transfer admissions program from SUNY community colleges, and for all New Yorkers who qualify for EOP,” said Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis. “At Stony Brook, our nationally recognized EOP/AIM program has a decades-long track record of helping economically marginalized underserved students lift themselves out of poverty through higher education. We are grateful to our legislators and SUNY leadership, including Chancellor Jim Malatras, for championing this and making it happen!”
“Today, because of the historic state investment, we are increasing access, programming, resources, and support that will be there for students where they are and when they need it so that no student is left behind,” Malatras said.
“Education is the key to a successful future, and our Education Opportunity Programs help put so many New York students on that path,” said SBU alumnus and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie ’90. “This funding will increase the number of EOP students that will be able to attend SUNY schools, provide more resources to help retain students at risk of dropping out, and help bridge technology gaps experienced by these vulnerable students. Making higher education accessible to all New Yorkers is a priority of the Assembly Majority, and we will continue to support programs like EOP that put college within reach for our students, and give them the tools and resources they need to be successful there.”
“Our students come to SBU and thrive as leaders and academic scholars and ultimately give back to their communities upon graduation, but at times need to pause their education due to various obstacles,” said Pamela Matzner, director of the Education Opportunity Program/Advancement on Individual Merit (EOP/AIM) program at Stony Brook. “This unprecedented SUNY financial commitment will permit EOP at Stony Brook to expand resources to allow for increased student retention and success with the goal of completing their degree. An investment in current and potential EOP students will impact the diversity and equity at Stony Brook University and on all SUNY campuses, while making New York an example in higher education throughout the United States.”
EOP has been credited as being one of the country’s most successful college programs, providing access, academic support, and financial assistance to more than 77,000 students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Students who are part of EOP have higher retention and graduation rates than students in the system overall. While the national graduation rates for earning a baccalaureate degree within six years ranges between 62 and 66 percent amongst universities, SUNY’s EOP students graduate at a rate of 74 percent during the same timeframe.
Expanding EOP is a priority for the Board of Trustees and chancellor Malatras, as seen in the SUNY 25-Point Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan approved earlier this year.