SUNY to Implement Single Largest State Increase in the Educational Opportunity Program, Starting with Opening 1,000 More Spots for Students, Adding Campuses, Increasing Student Financial Awards, and Expanding Academic Resources and Opportunities

October 6, 2021

Plan Establishes a $2 Million Student Persistence Fund to Help Students Most at Risk of Dropping Out Due to Unforeseen Financial Circumstances, will Help Fund Critical Student Technology Needs Like Laptops, and Grow Newly Created Programs like SUNY's Pre-Medical EOP

SUNY's Comprehensive Plan Includes Program's First Spring Class to Better Meet Students' Needs on Their Schedule

Photos From Today's Announcement are Available Here

Purchase, NY
– State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras joined by the Board of Trustees today announced SUNY's comprehensive plan to expand the Educational Opportunity Program as a result of the recent increase of $6.4 million by the State of New York. Today's announcement marks the largest single investment and most significant expansion of EOP since the inception of the program.

EOP has been credited as being one of the country's most successful college programs, providing access, academic support, and financial assistance to more than 77,000 students from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Students who are part of EOP have higher retention and graduation rates than students in the system overall. While the national graduation rates for earning a baccalaureate degree within six years ranges between 62 and 66 percent amongst universities, SUNY's EOP students graduate at a rate of 74 percent during the same timeframe.

Expanding EOP is a priority for the SUNY Board of Trustees and Chancellor Malatras, as seen in the SUNY 25-Point Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan approved earlier this year. The plan announced today, which will begin with the first-ever Spring 2022 class to better meet students' needs on their schedule, includes the following components:

Increase Access

  • SUNY will increase enrollment up to 1,000 more EOP students than were served by the program in 2020-21, from 8,000 students to 9,000.
  • Currently, 10 SUNY community colleges do not have an EOP program. SUNY's plan will expand the reach of EOP to more students by establishing new programs at five SUNY community colleges this year.
  • The only option for incoming EOP students is to start during the fall semester. SUNY will expand opportunities to meet students' need on their schedule by starting the first-ever spring semester EOP cohort.

Promote Retention and Aid to Students in Need

  • SUNY will establish a $2 million Student Persistence Fund to help EOP students who are at greatest risk of dropping out due to unforeseen financial circumstances during the academic year. Funding can range from $50 up to a maximum of $2,000 per student.
  • As part of the plan, SUNY will increase the funding per EOP student at each campus—which goes toward academic counseling, direct financial aid, and additional academic support—at most state-operated campuses, increasing from $2,600 to $2,800 per student, and the overall funding formula at most community colleges, increasing from $1,050 to $1,300 per student.

Foster Student Success

  • Funding is also being utilized to double SUNY's Pre-Medical Opportunity Program, which was announced in July. By the end of the 2021-2022 academic year, the program will include up to 75 pre-medical scholars. The investment also covers student costs for the summer program, which includes instruction, transportation, and room and board.
  • New investment will fund the creation of an EOP Student Ambassadors Program to better support EOP students and help strengthen recruitment efforts by engaging EOP students in meeting prospective students. The first class of 20 student ambassadors will represent SUNY campuses from across New York.

Increase Resources and Counselors to Meet Greater Student Needs

  • SUNY has purchased 890 laptops to mitigate technology gaps for incoming students.
  • To support the EOP counseling expansion on campuses, 15 additional counselors will be hired across SUNY to assist EOP students as they work toward their college degrees. Without the additional counselors, SUNY cannot serve more students.

"For decades, the Educational Opportunity Program has helped tens of thousands of students graduate from college and go on to successful careers. That is why growing the EOP has been a priority, one shared by the SUNY Board of Trustees, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and so many of our state and campus leaders who have been champions of this program for years," said Chancellor Malatras. "Today, because of the historic state investment, we are increasing access, programming, resources, and support that will be there for students where they are and when they need it so that no student is left behind. Our deepest thanks to Cornella Walker from Westchester Community College, and Ivan Mercado and Leandra Torres from Purchase College for sharing their inspirational stories so that more students just like them have the same opportunity to pursue their dreams of higher education."

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "During this year's budget, I led the Senate Majority in support of a total $7.7 billion invested in New York State's higher education system. These funds included a $6.4 million increase specifically for the Educational Opportunity Program, totaling $38.6 million. New York State has the largest, most excellent public university system in the world, and we are fortunate to have local institutions like Westchester Community College and Purchase College. SUNY's plan to expand this program by 1,000 students and five additional community colleges while dedicating new funds for at-risk students and increasing the number of EOP counselors to assist them will be transformative."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "Education is the key to a successful future, and our Educational Opportunity Programs help put so many New York students on that path. This funding will increase the number of EOP students that will be able to attend SUNY schools, provide more resources to help retain students at risk of dropping out, and help bridge technology gaps experienced by these vulnerable students. Making higher education accessible to all New Yorkers is a priority of the Assembly Majority, and we will continue to support programs like EOP that put college within reach for our students, and give them the tools and resources they need to be successful there."

Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education Toby Stavisky said, "In the April budget, we planted the seeds to increase opportunity programs by 20 percent. Now is the time of the harvest when we see the results of that $6.4 million investment. EOP students have better graduation rates because of improved guidance and support. EOP provides the framework for a brighter, more secure future for economically disadvantaged students."

New York State Senator Shelley B. Mayer said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for many college students, particularly our low-income students. My colleagues and I worked hard to increase EOP funding in the 2021-22 Budget, and I commend SUNY's work to use that funding to increase access, retain, and reconnect with students. The EOP has been a model for providing opportunity for students who would otherwise not have access to higher education. I am pleased to join with SUNY in ensuring these funds truly provide opportunity for students in the SUNY system."

Assembly Member Latoya Joyner said, "As an EOP graduate who has gone on to become an attorney and a member of the legislature, I know firsthand just how transformative the Educational Opportunity Program can be. SUNY's historic expansion of EOP invests in access and strengthens economic security for many New Yorkers by opening doors of opportunity and providing them with the tools needed to successfully pursue a higher education. This is truly an investment in the future of the Empire State and will produce extraordinary dividends that will enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers."

Assembly Member Chris Burdick said, "Access and opportunity are critical cornerstones of social justice. This is why I am proud to have joined so many of my Assembly colleagues in pushing to increase the state budget for higher education, including the Educational Opportunity Program. EOP has been enormously successful in making high-quality higher education accessible to underserved communities, including first-generation immigrants for whom higher education is an essential part of fulfilling the American dream. All of this contributes to creating a more just and equitable society. I applaud Chancellor Malatras for boldly moving ahead, further showcasing New York as the nation's leader in public higher education."

SUNY Board Vice Chairman Cesar Perales said, "Providing access to a high-quality education has been at the core of SUNY's mission from the start, and the Educational Opportunity Program has delivered on that promise time and time again to tens of thousands of students. This increase in funding, the largest in the program's history, will have real and immediate impacts to many more students and provide them with the access and opportunity to that same dream of attending college shared by so many students before them. A special and profound thanks to our leaders in the state legislature for making the expansion of this critical program a reality for so many."

SUNY Board Trustee Marcos Crespo said, "Historically, EOP has been one of the strongest comprehensive programs to help more students from the most economically challenged communities achieve a high-quality education, and this significant funding and resulting expansion reinforces the larger mission of the program. EOP has played a pivotal role in giving students access to academic support and college success, and this is a proud moment to be able to extend this program further to give even greater support."

SUNY Board Trustee Keith Landa said, "SUNY's Educational Opportunity Program is one of our most successful programs to provide access and success for a more equitable playing field for students who need it most—those who haven't been afforded the academic or financial support to truly believe college is a possibility. It is our responsibility as the nation's largest system of higher education to make sure that everyone has the support they need to succeed academically, and today's announcement is a giant leap forward for this program."

Cheryl Hamilton, executive director for EOP and interim student advocate, said, "We are excited that this program launched over 50 years ago has continued to stand the test of time and grow even further. The fact that we have more resources to better support our EOP students across the SUNY system is critical in helping us grow and expand the opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds through a college education."

Milagros Peña, Purchase College President, said, "We're very proud to have a strong EOP program, as providing access to education and diversifying our student body are at the heart of our mission as a public college. Every day, our EOP students and alumni make us proud of their talents, academic achievements, and resilience. We look forward to continuing to support them on their educational journeys and beyond."

Belinda Miles, Westchester Community College President, said, "Historic opportunity programs such as SUNY's 50-year-old EOP are hallmarks for today's best student success efforts in higher education. Built-in services such as tutoring, academic advising, career counseling, and peer support are driving success for many first-generation college students and others who are working to overcome a myriad of barriers to access and opportunity. The value of a community college education is evidenced by the fact that 21 percent of WCC students who begin their academic journey from the bottom fifth of the income quintiles end up in the top fifth later in life. The Student Persistence Fund is an important addition, targeting support to keep students on track when they confront potentially derailing obstacles. I am so proud of our students who are achieving their goals every day with EOP support, and I am grateful to our visionary legislators for investing in education that will shape New York's future."

Ivan Max Mercado, in the final semester of a bachelor's degree in history at Purchase College, said, "EOP has been so amazing—even before I got to campus I was assigned a mentor and counselor who guided me through different aspects of campus life. The program also provided me with financial support so I could come to Purchase College and a number of hands-on learning experiences to help bolster my resume. I am very fortunate to be a part of EOP—without this program I probably wouldn't be here at Purchase College, and today's announcement is very important because so many students are in need of this opportunity and we can help students who may be struggling."

Leandra Torres, a senior major in theater performance at Purchase College, said, "The EOP was first introduced to me as being a family, and that was really important to me when I was going and looking at colleges—hearing that really caught my attention, because I knew I would have a support system and wouldn't have to go through school alone. The mentorship and counseling aspects of EOP really create that family culture, and I know I can always reach out to my counselor and that she'll be there for me no matter what. Knowing that this program expanding means everything to me, because more people need to know about it and have the opportunity to be a part of the EOP family—it's so important, and I want it to grow as much as possible."

In the current academic year, SUNY had more than 10,000 EOP students on 50 SUNY campuses, with more than 1,200 students awarded degrees in Spring 2021 semester. EOP students often outperform their peers, with 74 percent of them graduating with a baccalaureate degree within six years.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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