The MisEducation of EOP

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Lisa Thompson


The College at Brockport

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I consider myself an expert on the topic of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and interestingly enough I was once guilty of miseducation. It took self reflection, honesty, constant evaluation and a conscious effort on my part to realize that I had to change how I delivered my message in regards to EOP. The ignorance of the purpose and the students that opportunity programs serve continues to baffle me each year as I review applications. I have the wonderful opportunity of being the Coordinator of EOP in my office and working with counselors, students and their families is very rewarding for me. It is frustrating when I have to turn students away because they do not meet the criteria for the program. This could be either because the applicant’s academic performance exceeds the requirements or because it is well below.

In my earlier years in admissions, I would tell students that if you are not sure, just go ahead and apply EOP. When I think back on the fact that I actually said those words, I cringe! I was adding to the problem that we continue to face with opportunity programs where the eligible students get swallowed up by applicants who should not be in the pool to begin with. Why did I tell applicants to go ahead and apply? That’s what I heard and so without thinking I started saying the same thing. Evaluation of processes, procedures and how information is disseminated is essential and change is sometimes necessary. The notion that “this is how we have always done it” should not be the answer or the attitude.

My attitude now is to inform, educate, question, and steer applicants in the right direction as it pertains to their eligibility to EOP. I am certainly not doing a student any service when I say, sure go ahead and apply for this opportunity program without exploring the unique circumstances of that student's situation. Yes, it is time consuming and so involved that sometimes I want to scream, however, I firmly believe in Henry David Thoreau’s quote; “Be true to your work, your word and your friends”.

When I think about the hundreds of students who are going through the process alone, confused and uncertain; I take a deep breath and I take the time to ______ (fill in the blank). When I take the time to provide as accurate an assessment to that student, their counselor and their families, it will make a difference and I see it firsthand so many times. It means setting my alarm for 10:47 PM to call a student so that we can talk about the documents he needs to submit. It means staying late to work undisturbed by the daily occurrences during my work day. It means spending 45 minutes on the phone explaining to a dad, whose household income is over $600K, that although his son is academically eligible, financially he is over the guidelines, WAY OVER. It means informing that dad, the program is for students who show potential and have a lower income. He said the students in EOP don’t perform and are poor...OUCH!

It is imperative that I do in part as I constantly educate and encourage others to become more informed about the nuances of programs such as EOP. If I got a dollar for the number of times I have said “EOP is an academic program that comes with a financial component and yes you have to be eligible for both”, I would be very rich by now.

We have to together as admissions representatives, high school counselors, educators to put an end to, or at least minimize the problems, myths and misconceptions that currently surround EOP...until then the viscous cycle continues.