CONTACT: Patrick Nowlan, pnowlan [@] rutgersaaup.org, 908-812-0972; Nat T. Bender, nbender[@] aftnj.org, 908-377-0393
Cite high success rate of EOF program for low-income, minority students
“The New Jersey Legislature’s budget committees took a significant step for New Jersey’s students by restoring and expanding funds for the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF),” said Shornna Berkeley, a student counselor at Rutgers. “The legislature recognized that our students, who are from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, need the opportunity to attend our colleges and universities and additional academic support to succeed there.”
Governor Christie’s proposed a $1.6 million cut in EOF funds from the higher education budget, but the legislature reversed the decrease and added approximately one million dollars to allow more deserving students into the program.
The Council of New Jersey State College Locals, the union for 10,000 faculty, staff and librarians at nine state four-year public colleges and universities, is strongly in favor of the additional funding, according to president Tim Haresign, a Stockton professor. “Educational Opportunity Fund students have tremendously high retention and graduation rates,” he said. “The program has a long proven record for promoting student success.”
The EOF program launched in 1968 with the support of Governor Tom Kean, then a freshman state senator.
“I’m so excited that we were able to effectively advocate for this funding and that our elected officials heard our voice,” said Alex Uematsu, a second year Rutgers student and legislative chair for New Jersey United Students. “We will be watching Governor Christie and calling on him to take note of our needs as students, just as he did when he signed the Dream Act.”
Berkeley participated in the advocacy through Rutgers AAUP-AFT, her 6,600-member union. “As a counselor at Rutgers and a leader in my union, I’d like to thank all of the students, faculty and staff who went to Trenton in the spring and signed petitions to restore the proposed funding cuts”, said Berkeley. “In the end, we were able to increase funding which benefits more students with dedicated counseling. We hope that Governor Christie agrees that we need to support our most vulnerable students and communities through great programs like EOF.”
The American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ) is the largest higher education union in the state, representing faculty and staff at the nine state colleges and universities, Rutgers, and half of the community colleges. “Increasing funding in this program is truly an investment that pays back in a better higher education system, more opportunity for New Jersey students and families and a better educated workforce for the state,” said AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera. “This is money well allocated and the legislators who supported it should be commended.”
The American Federation of Teachers New Jersey is the largest higher education union in the state, representing 20,000 full and part-time faculty, all levels of administrative, professional and supervisory staff, graduate workers, and postdoctoral researchers at a majority of the state’s public colleges and universities.