Binghamton University’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) may be facing changes as proposed state budget cuts threaten to slash the program’s funding across the SUNY system.
At BU, EOP has assisted students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds for roughly 50 years. The program provides financial aid to qualifying students, with additional academic assistance as well as career and personal counseling. Students who are accepted into EOP receive academic counseling, tutoring and supplemental instruction, including summer courses in the weeks before beginning college.
SUNY students have petitioned against the proposed cuts, which could lead to a $5.4 million loss to the program across the state. According to Calvin Gantt, director of EOP at BU, the cuts would prevent 800 eligible first-time students from being considered for the 2018-19 academic year at SUNY schools if passed.
The program at BU would be forced to decrease its acceptance rate by approximately 30 percent next year. According to SUNY records, 179 freshmen and 635 total students were enrolled in BU’s EOP in 2017.
If the budget changes are enacted, students could also find themselves on waiting lists and, according to Gantt, SUNY could risk losing them to private colleges with enticing financial aid packages. Additionally, the cuts could affect matriculated EOP students, especially those in science, engineering and technology fields, who receive aid to purchase their textbooks.
“It may impact the direct aid for continuing students, which can be a burden for all students, but more specifically those in the University colleges like [the Decker School of Nursing], [the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences] and [the School of Management],” Gantt said.
From Feb. 21 to Feb. 23, Joshua Gonzalez, the Student Association (SA) vice president for multicultural affairs, held a letter-writing campaign in support of EOP. In the University Union, students wrote to elected officials about the potential impact of the budget and discussed why the program was important at BU and other SUNY institutions.
On Wednesday, Feb. 28, about 600 students from SUNY schools across New York went to Albany to attend New York State United Teachers’ Higher Education Lobby Day, where they discussed issues involving the SUNY system, including the proposed cuts to EOP funding. Henry Gulergun, an SA Congress representative and junior majoring in political science, said he and several other BU students attended the event and spoke with elected officials, including Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, who represents Binghamton in the State Assembly.
Amanda Sprague-Getsy, a freshman double-majoring in environmental studies and biology, said EOP also helps prepare students for college, which could be impacted by budget cuts.
“I think the budget cut would be detrimental to students who rely on EOP funding for tutoring and paying for school,” Sprague-Getsy said. “Just hearing from friends, the EOP has prepared them for school in a way they could not have without it.”
Lindsay Mendelson, a freshman majoring in chemistry, said she was extremely concerned about EOP funding being cut. According to Mendelson, EOP provides opportunities for those who need it most.
“If they cut the EOP budget, that will affect all the students of minority backgrounds who need this money to attend college,” Mendelson said. “I know a lot of people who think of their EOP funding as a miracle. It gives people the opportunity to go to an elite school like [BU].”