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EOF program sees extra million after state budget is passed

By Manuel Silva-Paulus

The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program has reversed cuts to the program proposed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and has received an additional one million dollars in funding.

After the increase was approved, the funds were frozen and not made available until Sept. 20 due to Executive Order 209 signed by Christie, said Michelle Shostack, assistant dean and director of the School of Arts Sciences EOF program.

“He was basically holding hostage all of this funding included in the EOF money until he got healthcare savings,” said Patrick Nolan, executive director of the American Association of University Professors.

Christie tied funding for several types of social services and educational funding with his desire to cut spending on healthcare for public employees, Nolan said.

“He tied the two together and said if we don’t achieve savings in healthcare of $250 million, we’re not going to get any of this money even though the legislature put it in the budget,” Nolan said.

Christie proposed the cuts in February, but signed off on its restoration and expansion in June, Nolan said. The cycle of proposing cuts and restoring them makes it difficult for the people who run the EOF program to plan out how to serve the students, which was only made worse by Executive Order 209.

Nolan said government officials often propose cuts to the EOF when they begin looking at a new year’s budget.

“Every time they propose a cut all of the public and even private universities have to plan based on what they know, (which) is that the governor has proposed less money.”

Every year for the past two to three years, Christie has been proposing cuts to the EOF program, he said. Each year the cuts have been restored by working with legislative leaders and showing the value of the program.

“Senator (Tom) Kean (R-N.J. 21st District) released a press release saying that he not only advocated for restoring the cuts but also expanding the program,” Nolan said. “We knew at that point we had bipartisan support.”