SUNY New Paltz has received funding from the state to expand its Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) by 100 students, as announced by the college on Feb. 12.
The $290,000 award will open spaces for 25 new first-year students to join the program per year over the next four years. It also enables the hire of a new EOP counselor, which will be appointed following a nationwide search, EOP director Antonio Bonilla said.
“I’m a direct product of EOP,” Bonilla, a New Paltz class of ‘87 graduate and EOP alum, said. “I am very grateful to the administration and to all of our students doing amazing work in this program. We have so many applicants per year that you can only feel excited knowing this support from the state will increase spots to make this opportunity more available.”
Founded in 1967, New Paltz’s EOP has provided academic and financial support to more than 40,000 students coming from economically or historically disadvantaged backgrounds. The program aids these students in pursuing higher education despite facing circumstances that would otherwise hinder their college enrollment. Fourty-three SUNY campuses currently have EOPs, which offer students financial aid for room, board, books and other expenses.
Among SUNY schools, an excess of 3,000 EOP students achieved a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or greater last academic year, according to suny.edu. New Paltz’s EOP is the second-largest of the entire SUNY system, with 517 students currently enrolled.
On the SUNY New Paltz campus, EOP has become synonymous with “family” and “community” for students like fourth-year communications major Tinaya Jean, who is set to graduate next semester. The program hosts events, coordinates study groups and keeps students on the path to achieving their goals – goals that once did not seem attainable.
“Being around people who come from similar backgrounds is so rewarding,” Jean said. “We all work like one big family to build each other up. If it wasn’t for EOP, I wouldn’t be here at school.”
Jean said that the financial support alongside that of advisors make the program a valuable opportunity for incoming students that may have never imagined pursuing higher education.
“I’m excited that more students will be given an increased chance to get into New Paltz due to the program’s new funding,” Jean said. “The fact that these students can apply and be able to go to a well-ranked school like New Paltz is definitely a great step.”
Along with funding for New Paltz’s program, the SUNY system granted aid to 15 other campuses to either establish or expand their current EOP. Altogether, nearly $2.4 million was awarded to the campuses.
Funding was supported by the SUNY Investment and Performance Fund, allocated from the 2015-16 New York State Budget and excess SUNY resources.
In a campus-wide email, College President Donald P. Christian shared sentiments of pride and support toward the expansion of the college’s EOP. The program, he said, furthers the college’s commitment to making quality education accessible.
“We are extremely proud of our Educational Opportunity Program, one of the best in the state at preparing and supporting New York students in overcoming socio-economic and academic challenges to higher education success,” Christian said. “We are excited that this new funding will create opportunity for more deserving students to join this vibrant community.”