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Bill May Require Participation From JCC

Jamestown Community College may be required to participate in the state’s Educational Opportunity Program under legislation proposed in the state Senate recently.

Sen. Jamaal Bradley, D-Bronx, recently proposed S.6788 in the Senate to create a commission to evaluate the need for community colleges to participate in the Educational Opportunity Program, which provides access, academic support and financial aid to students who show promise for succeeding in college but who may not have otherwise been offered admission. The program is designed for students who need special academic assistance as well as financial aid.

Versions of Bradley’s legislation were introduced in the 2017-18 legislative session.

The commission would be made up of 13 members and be authorized to undertake any studies, surveys or analysis needed.

It would be given a year to complete its work and submit findings to the governor and state Legislature.

“As college tuitions continue to increase throughout New York state, youth from disadvantaged backgrounds are seeking more affordable options for higher education,” Bradley wrote in his legislative justification. “A popular alternative has become pursuing a two-year degree at a local community college and then transferring to a four-year college or university to complete the remaining credits en route to a bachelor’s degree. While this approach sounds promising, students using such technique risk potentially disqualifying themselves for essential financial and academic support programs such as EOP and HEOP at their future college or university.”

Students who enroll in a two-year college and use the Educational Opportunity Program are eligible to continue the program when they transfer to a four-year college that offers the EOP program, the College Discovery program, the Higher Education Opportunity Program, the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge program or similar academic and financial support programs. Jamestown Community College is among 12 of the state’s 30 community colleges that don’t participate in the Educational Opportunity Program. The State University of New York has said it can consider transfer applicants for the programs, but there is no clear policy on how eligibility is determined — meaning it would be easier for transfer students to take advantage of the program if the two-year college where they are studying takes part in the programs as well.

“Eligibility criteria that unfairly burdens transfer student applicants from certain community colleges and favors transfer student applicants from EOP participating community colleges and four-year colleges and universities discourages the educational aspirations of many that opportunity programs were designed to benefit,” Bradley wrote. “Throughout New York, financially and academically disadvantaged students who attend or plan to attend one of the 12 stated community colleges could eventually risk missing out on tens of thousands dollars in academic and financial support. Due to the significant disparity that can result from community colleges not operating EOP, it’s vital the state evaluates the feasibility of mandating all SUNY community colleges to participate in EOP or prohibiting eligibility criteria that require transfer students to be previously enrolled in EOP or a similar program.”

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