SUNY Buffalo State’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), this year, achieved its greatest six-year graduation rate since its inception in 1967. Fifty percent of EOP students hold a GPA of 3.0 or greater. Along with this, only four percent of EOP students are on academic probation, which is an all-time low for the program. “We even have students that began college in EOP, and they are now in the honors program,” said Yanick Jenkins, director of EOP.
“EOP provided me with the tools to succeed in a college environment,” said Jeff Oyo, a senior economics major. “Now I’m applying for Ph.D. programs in economics and I know I’m a strong candidate.” Oyo chose Buffalo State over nine other schools that accepted him. “At Buffalo State I’ve had an opportunity to travel the U.S. for economics conferences,” said Oyo, who has attended conferences at the University of Maryland, Ohio State University, and the University of Southern California.
EOP is dedicated to providing support and assistance to students who are capable of succeeding in a college setting but have limited preparation or financial resources. More than 90 percent of EOP students have a family income less than $25,000 per year. Prospective students who meet the criteria for EOP can apply for the program as a part of the regular Buffalo State application. “I wish all students could be EOP students,” said Jenkins. “EOP works for everyone and is not a minority program. Students from any background can fit the criteria for EOP.”
Students in the program step into a family-like community that offers support in every aspect of college life. “Sometimes students joke that I’m like another parent to them because I’m always checking in to see how they’re doing,” said Jude Jayatilleke, senior EOP counselor. EOP students are scheduled to meet with a counselor at least once every two weeks but, according to Jayatilleke, they often come in much more frequently. “If we don’t see a student very often, we will find a way to get in touch with them,” said Jayatilleke. “We will call students, or even contact them through Facebook.”
Many EOP students are active in the school community as resident assistants, work-study employees, and University Police student assistants. Oyo, a resident assistant in Porter Hall, also tutors economics. “My freshman year I utilized the tutoring system a lot and now I’m a tutor myself,” said Oyo.
Incoming students have an opportunity to ease the transition to college life through a summer program that begins three weeks before school starts. Students learn what resources are available and discuss appropriate classroom conduct. This program gradually increases in rigor, so students won’t be blind-sided when the semester begins.
“I’ve been here for seven years, and I love seeing how the program has grown,” said Jayatilleke. “We create a home away from home for our students.”