Like their counterparts across the nation, students from low-income households in New York State use higher education as a stepping stone to improve their quality of life. Research has shown that a college degree is a proven catalyst to elevating social and economic status in our society.
However, the responsibility of navigating countless majors, colleges, application requirements, financial aid and deadlines can be challenging for young people who are often the first in their family to go to college. SUNY’s Office of Opportunity Programs has partnered with the NYS Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) to engage and empower these students and their families.
HESC oversees the New York Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (NYGEAR UP) initiative which serves some 6000 low-income students. The Office of Opportunity Programs supports students at nine NYGEARUP sites in a variety of ways including hosting college fairs, financial aid presentations, college choice advisement, overnight SUNY college bus tours, college application completion, and college success workshops for both students and parents. And that support will continue through this cohort’s first year of college to help students make the transition to postsecondary life.
Several SUNY NYGEARUP College fairs were held throughout the state at SUNY Queens Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), SUNY Purchase, SUNY Geneseo, and Genesee Community College. A SUNY NYGEAR UP college that fair took place recently at Westchester Community College (WCC) exposed students from high schools in Yonkers and Mount Vernon to the WCC campus and provided them with an opportunity to meet SUNY admissions representatives from the following colleges and universities:
SUNY Fulton-Montgomery Community College, SUNY Adirondack Community College, SUNY Dutchess Community College, SUNY Buffalo State, Hudson Valley Community College, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Corning Community College, SUNY Oswego, Purchase College, University at Buffalo, SUNY Jefferson Community College, Down State Medical Center, SUNY Delhi, SUNY Maritime College, SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Canton, Mohawk Valley Community College, Stony Brook University, SUNY Farmingdale, Herkimer County Community College, SUNY Morrisville, and SUNY Cortland.
In addition to the college fair, the high school attendees learned more about WCC’s student life, learning communities, and the academic and socio-emotional support provided by the college’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). Currently operating on 48 of SUNY’s 64 campuses, EOP serves more than 11,000 students annually, with approximately 3,000 new students enrolled each year. Eligible students are motivated young people who demonstrate academic promise but whose life circumstances have not permitted them to reach their potential, The program’s six-year baccalaureate completion rate of 73% underscores the effectiveness of the model and its ability to develop student scholars.
Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.