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March 8, 2017

Hundreds of students assemble in Albany to push for opportunity programs

ALBANY – Nearly 800 students from SUNY’s successful Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC) came to Albany March 8 with a loud, unified call to lawmakers to protect and invest in these life-changing programs.

The annual event, a United University Professions initiative, drew nearly twice as many students as in past years.

Accompanied by their advisors, students—some of whom boarded buses as early as 3 a.m. to make the trip—traveled to the state capital from SUNY campuses statewide to take part in the EOC/EOP advocacy day.

“Many of you have told us that you would have never had the chance to go to college without these programs,” UUP President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D. told students at a pre-advocacy rally, held in a large Empire State Plaza concourse meeting room. “Each of you has personal stories about how the EOP and the EOCs have put you on the track to success. Tell those stories from the heart. Let your elected officials know what these programs mean to you.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Assembly member Deborah J. Glick (D-Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, also spoke to students at the rally.

The EOP is one of the America’s most successful opportunity programs, with a higher graduation rate than the national average. The EOP helps underserved students gain access to college and succeed by tailoring support to meet their specific needs—including tutoring and supplemental instruction. The EOCs help prepare students for college or for vocational training programs.

Students were energized, motivated, and more than willing to share their stories with lawmakers.

The students, along with nearly 100 UUP members, urged lawmakers to restore a $5.3 million cut to the EOCs and a $2 million cut to the ATTAIN Labs in the governor’s Executive Budget. They also asked for the restoration of a $5 million funding reduction to the EOP in the governor’s proposed spending plan.

Restoring those funds is crucial to maintain and potentially expand the EOP. In 2016, thousands of EOP applicants vied for fewer than 3,000 slots.

“The EOP and EOCs help students from becoming mired in debt, and give others the extra preparation they require to excel in public higher education,” Kowal said. “These programs work.”

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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