The Educational Opportunity Program combines access, academic support and supplemental financial assistance to make higher education possible for students who have the potential to succeed, despite poor preparation and limited financial resources.
Having been in operation for more than a quarter century, the Educational Opportunity Program had its origins in the late 1960's, during the Rockefeller Administration. The Master Plan of the State University for 1964 set forth a long-range commitment that "every student capable of completing a program of higher education should have the opportunity to do so." This objective was confirmed in the 1966 Interim Revision of the Master Plan. In that document, the Trustees expressed the goal of giving each applicant" what he or she needs to the limit of his (her) capabilities, provided that the applicant is willing to be tested and advised."
In 1967, then first-year Assemblyman, Arthur O. Eve, of the 141st District, gave further force to the principles of access and opportunity by developing the appropriation bill that gave birth to the Educational Opportunity Program. Modeled on the SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) program that had been instituted by Percy Sutton in the City University in the prior year, the first unit of what would become a university-wide opportunity program enrolled 249 students at the State University College at College in Buffalo, New York. In the following year, Assemblyman Eve was able to obtain sufficient funding to permit expansion to ten campuses. By the 1970-71 academic year, thirty campuses had enrolled more than 4600 opportunity students and Education Law 6452 had formally established the provisions of SEEK and the City University, EOP in the State University and HEOP at the independent colleges.
The Educational Opportunity Program now exists on forty-three campuses in the State University. Similar programs offer opportunities in the higher education systems of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California. Today, Educational Opportunity Program graduates number more than 55,000. Most continue to live in New York, enriching its economic and social fabric. Among their numbers are physicians, teachers, scientists, engineers, attorneys, artists, entrepreneurs and public servants. And, many have returned to the State University as administrators and counselors who provide support to another generation of opportunity students.