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University News

Proposed Cuts To EOP: What That Means

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BY VALERIE ORLEANS
From Dateline (May 6, 2004)

Students rallying
Hundreds of Cal State Fullerton students gathered in the Quad last week to protest budget cuts to the CSU system. Speakers at the April 29 rally included students, faculty members and those who are concerned about the elimination of EOP programs that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed.

“For over 30 years, the Educational Opportunity Program has helped ‘level the playing field,’” said Silas Abrego, associate vice president for student affairs. “Some students, particularly those from low-income families or those who may be the first in their families to attend college, frequently don’t have the same advantages when it comes to education.”

Now EOP is threatened. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has targeted it and other outreach programs for elimination while attempting to balance the state’s budget.

“What the governor proposes is the complete elimination of EOP programs,” said Abrego. “What that means is that academic prep-aration for high school students would be cut. It would eliminate the Summer Bridge program, MESA [a program to assist educationally disadvantaged students pursue studies in engineering] and early assessment programs [where university staff members visit high schools to access students’ college readiness and suggest areas for improvement]. It would eliminate or reduce sources of financial aid. Cutting EOP would, in effect, break the promise of the Master Plan for Higher Education.”

In 1960, the California Board of Regents and the State Board of Education adopted the Master Plan for Higher Education to ensure that a college education would be accessible and affordable to all. However, as the plan was put into operation, it became apparent that the dream of providing a college education for all would need some assistance. So in 1969, EOP was founded. It exists to improve access for and retention of low-income and educationally disadvantaged students.

EOP’s value both to individuals and the state as a whole was underscored in remarks made last Thursday by Gus Chavez, retired San Diego State EOP director. He spoke to a campus audience in the Pollak Library and also at the April 29 student rally that attracted hun-dreds to the Quad to protest the governor’s proposed cuts to the CSU budget.

“Saving EOP means sav-ing California,” he said to those assembled for the rally. “We are the future of California.... Let your local legislators know not to cut EOP.”

According to Abrego, EOP students are unfamiliar with the admissions process, they don’t know what classes to take in high school to meet university requirements, how to prepare for more grueling college classes or how to apply for financial aid.

“That’s where EOP can help,” he added. “We reach out to these students and help them navigate their way through the system.”

At Fullerton, 2,000 students are utilizing EOP services and programs, according to Jeremiah W. Moore, director of student academic services, which oversees EOP on campus.

“EOP adds a great deal of value to this university by creating a more diverse student body and integrating new college students,” said President Milton A. Gordon. “EOP has always been integral to Cal State Fullerton. Losing a program like this would not only be devastating to the students involved, but to all students on campus.”

“What EOP does is help people come out of poverty,” noted Donald S. Castro, special assistant to the president. “Education has historically been a way for low-income students to develop the skills needed to rise out of poverty. Today, a college education is more critical than ever. By dismantling programs like EOP, we often cut off the only avenue these individuals have to gain access to a university. If you take away EOP, you take away hope.”

The CSU doesn’t want to take away that hope.

“We will be seeking flexibility in the areas the governor has suggested we cut,” stated Richard P. West, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer, in January soon after the governor’s budget was announced. “We would like the ability to take the cuts where they would least hurt students and the quality education the CSU provides.”

Noted Chavez: “We want to ensure that programs that do so much for those less fortunate aren’t eliminated. Since the EOP’s inception, we have helped over 250,000 students graduate from CSU schools. In turn, these same students go on to pursue jobs that help drive the state’s economy. But, if the governor has his way, that assistance could disappear.”



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