Winner of a Noel-Levitz Retention Excellence Award (2004), SUNY New Paltz's Educational Opportunity Program is an academic program designed for capable students who, because of inadequate financial resources and academic preparation, have not had the same opportunities as other students to realize their academic potential. With an annual enrollment of more than 500 students, our EOP is one of the largest in the State University of New York system. A personalized, highly structured academic support program, it offers admission to the University and provides academic, personal, and social counseling, as well as financial aid advisement.
Career and vocational counseling, tutorial services, and supplemental instruction in English and mathematics are also provided by the University as needed. First year students entering in September are invited to attend a three-day First-Year Summer Orientation designed for testing and registration of classes, and to acquaint them with the University environment.
The mission of the Educational Opportunity Program is two-fold: first, the program seeks to recruit and admit students who otherwise would not have access to the University due to educational and financial disadvantages. Secondly, the program provides comprehensive services to support the success, retention and graduation of its students. These services, by definition, are to extend above and beyond that which is available to the rest of the student body.
Advising Model: Our holistic model is designed to provide both depth and breadth of services. EOP advisors are expected to be retention specialists who have multiple talents in academic advising, the pedagogical practices for effective developmental education and study skills, personal counseling, the promotion of cultural diversity, financial aid and student accounting procedures, facilitating career development and student leadership, modeling decision-making and life skills, making appropriate referrals, and above all, the ability to illuminate how all aspects of the college experience can be interconnected.
Student Services: Our student services include academic advisement, personal counseling, career development, study skills instruction, tutoring, financial advisement, and student leadership opportunities. These services are provided in an integrated, holistic fashion within the context of a mentoring relationship with an EOP advisor.
The First-Year Experience: For the last 14 years EOP has actively used the model of front loading services for first-year as a retention strategy; this is a model that has only recently emerged for all college first-year students. The actual components of EOP's First-Year Experience have varied over the years due to changes in funding and admissions selectivity. The First-Year Experience is highly structured. Student participation in retention services is required and performance expectations are set forth in a Student Agreement Form. Expecting all freshmen to participate in services limits the perception of stigma and aims to create positive norms for the community of EOP first-year students. Successful EOP students are selected to serve as role models for the first-year students through the components of peer mentoring and peer tutoring.
The EOP First-Year Experience requires that all EOP first-year students participate in an expanded summer orientation (including a family orientation program), a first-year seminar -- "Key Issues in the Education of 'Under-represented' College Students," peer counseling, study groups, frequent contact with their EOP advisor, a student achievement contract, and program assemblies. Most first-year students receive a financial aid package which provides grants to meet all billed expenses. Student leadership opportunities exist within peer mentoring, peer tutoring, office management and the Student Action Team for program advocacy.