Number of EOP students admitted this fall could be significantly reduced

UB received warning from SUNY in early March to prepare for major cuts to EOP budget


UB may slash the number of students admitted this spring through its Educational Opportunity Program by roughly 50 percent, in response to state budget cuts to the tune of $5 million across SUNY campuses, according to Lee Melvin, UB’s vice provost for enrollment.

EOP has existed as an additional admissions program for students from economically and historically disadvantaged backgrounds. It provides advisement, tutoring and other services to students who may not have been otherwise able to attend UB.

Melvin said his office is following advice received earlier this month in a memo from the SUNY EOP office, which recommended colleges with EOP programs anticipate budget cuts. Melvin said his department has reduced the target number for EOP enrollment by roughly 100 students in anticipation of the cuts.

New York state legislators have spent the week in 11th-hour budget discussions, and Melvin said he is hopeful he receives an answer by the weekend about whether funding will be maintained at current levels.

The enrollment department is “ready to move quickly” to admit more students if he receives word from SUNY that the 2018-19 New York state budget keeps EOP funding at current levels, Melvin said.

In the meantime, Melvin said his office is taking the guidance from SUNY “very seriously.”

Melvin said he worries students will lose out on access to institutions like UB and will “get shut out” of the opportunity afforded to those who study at public colleges and universities.

The budget cuts will not impact current students in the EOP program, Melvin said.

“Ultimately, it’s a budgeting process. Everything is important, and everything is on the table. So, I just believe this is part of the political process,” Melvin said. “At least we have an advance notice. If they had told us in May, that would have been a disaster.”

A spokesperson for the New York state budget office did not respond to questions about the proposed cuts in time for print.

When asked about the possible budget cuts, EOP director Tracy Johnson said in an email March 14 that The Spectrum had received incorrect information regarding EOP’s budget, and did not comment on whether or not the new year’s budget would change from current levels.

“EOP is healthy as ever with a 65 percent Four-Year and 75.26 percent Six-Year Graduation Rate!” Johnson said in the email. Johnson has not responded to any calls or emails from The Spectrum since March 14.

Melvin said the budget cuts are not, as far as he is aware, related to the implementation of the Excelsior Scholarship. While the Excelsior Scholarship is a “last dollars” tuition scholarship that helps lower-income students afford to attend SUNY and CUNY schools, EOP is a separate admissions program for students who might not otherwise be admitted to the university, which in some cases would impact eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship.

The university is advocating for the full restoration of EOP in the state budget, said UB spokesperson John Della Contrada in an email.

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at sarah.crowley@ubspectrum.com and @crowleyspectrum.