Students Call for Restoration of Opportunity Program Funds
ALBANY, N.Y. – About 700 students from across New York traveled to Albany on Wednesday, asking lawmakers to fully fund programs that helped them prepare for college.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget calls for a $5 million cut in funding for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and a $5.3 million on cut to Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC).
Fred Kowal, president of United University Professions, which represents SUNY faculty and staff, says those cuts would be devastating.
"The cuts potentially would reduce the number of students who would be able to take advantage of the programs,” he points out. “Already thousands more apply than there are slots for every year."
Last year, tens of thousands of students applied for fewer than 3,000 slots in EOP.
The program helps underserved students prepare for college, and the Opportunity Centers work with students who already have entered the workforce. As Kowal points out, the programs get results.
"Students who enroll in the programs graduate at higher rates than the general population, and that's both in SUNY and nationally, and they also graduate with higher grade point averages," he stresses.
Kowal adds that, without these programs, many students say they would not be able to go to college at all.
There has been legislative support for funding in the past. Kowal notes that over the past two years lawmakers have expanded funding for SUNY, and increased funding for EOP and EOC by about 25 percent each year.
"We are confident that what the governor has cut will be reinstated by the Legislature, and we are also advocating for an increase beyond where the budget was last year," Kowal states.