Trenton – Vowing a fight to restore funding cut from the state’s Equal Opportunity Fund, a team of Democratic senators today joined with education advocates and college students in support of a restoration of money that provides financial assistance and academic support for students who face economic disadvantages in attending college.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senator Sandra Cunningham, Senator Ronald Rice, Senator Shirley Turner, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Nellie Pou joined with Alex Delgado President of the EOF Professional Association, David Hughes, President of the American Association of University Professionals of the American Federation of Teachers and college students from Rutgers and Rowan universities in support of the restoration of the funds.
The governor’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2017 would reduce EOF funding by $2.6 million, from $41.4 million to $38.8 million. The governor’s proposal would eliminate the additional funding added by the Legislature in the current, FY 2016 budget. Democrats defied the governor last year when he attempted to reduce EOF funds.
A priority of the Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic leadership, the legislators not only restored the $1.6 million cut, they added another $1 million. The governor signed the budget with the funding intact, resulting in $41.4 in total EOF funding.
The funding will help support 60 EOF programs at New Jersey colleges and universities, providing financial assistance to more than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The restored funds could aid an additional 220 students.
The EOF contributes to the development of a college student body that reflects the diversity of New Jersey. In partnership with the state’s 28 public and 13 independent colleges and universities, the fund provides access to higher education and support for students who come from families or communities disadvantaged by low income or the lack of access to an education necessary to prepare for college.
The program consists of Opportunity Grants and Supplementary Education Program Grants. Opportunity Grants are awarded to students to assist in meeting college expenses, such as fees, books, room, board, and transportation. Supplementary Education Program Grants are provided to institutions to provide campus outreach and support services, including tutoring, counseling, supplemental instruction, and leadership development. The institutions provide matching funds as a condition for the receipt of grants.
What legislators said:
“The EOF program helps to open the door for a higher education for students who are disadvantaged economically or because they did not have access to schools that prepared them for college. No one should be denied the opportunity to get a college degree because they can’t afford it.” Senator Sweeney.
“This is a program that helps to lower the barriers for students who have the skills and abilities to succeed in college but face disadvantages that are not of their own making. This is about equal opportunity to higher education. The EOF has proven its success over the years at campuses in Newark and elsewhere throughout the state.” Senator Weinberg.
“The Black Caucus made this a priority, we challenged the governor to provide the funding and we prevailed. But this is not a political victory, it is an accomplishment of equal opportunity for students who possess the skills and the abilities to succeed in college.” Senator Rice, head of the Legislative Black Caucus.
“The students who benefit from the EOF come to campus with economic and educational challenges; however, they are also men and women with so much potential and intelligence that they deserve a chance to tap into that possibility. Going to college does more than just provide a piece of paper. College gives people the opportunity to make new friends, to experience a new environment and to learn about new cultures. Importantly, it gives them the chance to get ahead. We are working to ensure that more students are afforded this privilege.” Senator Cunningham, Chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
“EOF is unique, innovative and important because it takes a comprehensive approach to providing aid and support to students. It supplies supplemental assistance to cover costs for books, fees and rooming, and it provides academic support to help children succeed and graduate. We have to remain committed to making sure that higher education opportunities are reachable and affordable.” Senator Ruiz, Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.
“A college education for be available and affordable for every student who is capable of doing the academic work. They should not be denied because of unequal opportunities. The EOF has been one of the more successful programs in the country. It should be supported and maintained.” Senator Turner.
“For nearly fifty years this program has changed lives and provided opportunities to students that may initially have seemed out of reach. Cutting funding to education at any level is irresponsible and can harm the future of our state. We need to restore this funding and give the students a chance to pursue their academic goals.” Senator Pou.
“Higher education shouldn’t be a distant dream for students because they are financially disadvantaged. This program offers opportunities for a college degree that will provide benefits into a lifetime. We believe this is an investment in life for young people with a future.” David Hughes, President of the American Association of University Professionals of the American Federation of Teachers.