February 15, 2020

SUNY Empire State College Launches the Empire Opportunity Program to Expand Access to Higher Education


Program Will Provide Financial Aid and Academic Support to Students from Historically Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Empire Opportunity Program Expands the State’s Highly Successful Educational Opportunity Program to Open it to Students at All Stages of Life and Learning

First Time in SUNY Empire’s Nearly 50-Year History It Will Have an Opportunity Program

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Feb. 15, 2020) SUNY Empire State College announced the launch of its Empire Opportunity Program to provide targeted financial aid and enhanced academic support to open the doors to higher education for students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Unlike traditional Educational Opportunity Programs, SUNY Empire’s unique Empire Opportunity Program is open to students at all stages of life and learning to provide expanded access to college degrees for first-time entry students and returning adults alike. It also offers greater flexibility in supporting full-time or part-time study, allowing online, onsite, or blended study, and placing EOP students in a cohort of their peers to provide added support.

During its first academic year, 2020-21, the program will accept 60 students.

Participants will be able to study onsite at SUNY Empire’s Western New York campus in Buffalo – with additional locations to be added as the program expands –  or online with SUNY Empire’s more than 110 online degrees and certificates, or through a blended learning approach. Whatever the mode of study, SUNY Empire EOP students will have dedicated academic support throughout their studies.

Dana Brown, academic advisor at SUNY Empire, was appointed director of SUNY Empire’s EOP. Director Brown will work with Tai Arnold, interim vice provost for Student Success, to implement programming and support that will ensure student success and strengthen retention. In coordination with SUNY Empire's Chief Diversity Officer Elliott Dawes, the program will offer each SUNY Empire EOP student the opportunity to work with professionals and faculty around the college who will provide support, encouragement, and guidance for their undergraduate studies and beyond.

SUNY Empire EOP will offer the following benefits to participants:

  • Targeted and ongoing financial assistance, such as stipends for full-time and part-time students to help with the overall cost of attendance.
  • Enhanced additional academic support services from professional and peer tutors who work exclusively with Empire Opportunity Program
  • A dedicated student success mentor to provide guidance from enrollment through commencement.
  • Summer Orientation with workshops on topics like individualized degree planning and strategies for effective communication to prepare for success in college.
  • Specialized year-round EOP workshops on topics ranging from resume writing to self-marketing on social media.
  • Early Degree Planning to help students meet their personal, professional, and academic goals. 

“I could think of no better way to honor the legacy of Buffalo’s Arthur O. Eve, former New York Assemblyman and Deputy Speaker of New York State's Assembly — a leader who tirelessly fought for the implementation of the Educational Opportunity Program — than to build on his legacy by creating an enhanced Empire Opportunity Program in Buffalo at SUNY Empire State College,” said SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras. “I’d like to thank Director Dana Brown and the staff and faculty at SUNY Empire for bringing this program to life, and I look forward to the difference it will make for hardworking New Yorkers in the years to come.”

“Education is the great equalizer in our society,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Expanding the State’s efforts to help more students earn an advanced degree is an investment in our future. The Senate Majority has worked tirelessly to invest in education opportunities and help more New Yorkers unleash their full potential, and the Empire Opportunity Program will help advance that goal.”

"Education is a  critical rung in the ladder of success, building a strong middle class and improving lives," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. "I have been a supporter of the EOP program since my own college experience and have made programs like this a priority since becoming Speaker. This expansion to SUNY Empire will make it easier for New York's students to get the education and support they need in the manner that best suits their lives - whether that's on a campus, online or a combination of the two. As we look to the 2020-2021 budget, the Assembly Majority will continue fighting for programs like EOP that put college within reach for all New Yorkers."

“I commend SUNY Empire for recognizing the need to expand access to financial assistance to the students from disadvantaged communities in Buffalo and across New York state,” said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “Our students are determined to get their degree, and bring that perseverance to the workforce."

“New York’s Educational Opportunity Programs, coupled with New York State’s student financial aid programs, have long helped to ensure that students who are economically and educationally disadvantaged succeed in college,” said New York State Higher Education Services Corporation President Dr. Guillermo Linares. “With the changing demographics of today’s college student, SUNY Empire State College’s new program will provide the same successful opportunities to the growing population of adult student learners and students at all stages of life.”

"On behalf of my family, I thank President Malatras for instituting the program at SUNY Empire State College for students at all stages of life,” said Leecia Eve, daughter of Arthor O. Eve. “As the Educational Opportunity Programs celebrate the achievements of the past fifty years, we pause to reflect on these past successes and look forward to the future of these life-changing programs that started when my father, former Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve, developed the appropriations bill that gave birth to the programs that have transformed countless lives and communities for generations."  

“SUNY Empire’s new EOP initiative will put a college degree within reach for many New Yorkers, especially adults and returning students, who may have thought a higher education was impossible,” said Director Dana Brown. “This is an important step toward achieving the full promise of higher education as a path to a better life for all, not just some.” 

The program is supported entirely by SUNY Empire State College with assistance from the Empire State College Foundation.

To be eligible for the Empire Opportunity Program at SUNY Empire, applicants must be a New York state resident for 12 months prior to enrollment and meet the program’s academic and financial eligibility requirements. Learn more at esc.edu/eop.

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College educates students at any stage of life with a personalized learning experience delivered online, in person, or a blend of both. Since 1971, SUNY Empire has empowered students to earn an accredited degree around the demands of a busy lifestyle to advance their personal and professional goals. With world-class faculty, more than 1,300 dedicated mentors to help students tailor their degree programs, and cutting-edge distance learning technology, SUNY Empire delivers a trusted and flexible online college experience grounded in more than 30 New York state locations and seven international sites where students can learn and collaborate in person. The college’s nearly 50 years as a leader in awarding credit for prior learning and life experience helps students earn a degree faster and at lower cost. To learn more, visit www.esc.edu and follow @SUNYEmpire.