The following article was published in the Fall 1999 edition of On Target.
It was written by Anthony Tillman, Executive Associate Dean of Student Life at
I do not intend to join the affirmative action debate, but to discuss how
New Jersey and Drew
University have been leaders in educating disadvantaged and at-risk college students and, in
doing so, have provided their own answer to the debate regarding academic merit and
accessibility. The answer is the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program, which has
worked because it combines the resources of the state with the resources of participating
institutions in creating a true partnership to provide a true educational opportunity for a
cohort of its most deserving students.
A Partnership Between State and Schools.
EOF, a 30 - year - old partnership between the State of New Jersey Commission
Education (CHE) and New Jersey colleges and universities, has provided access to higher
education and support for highly motivated students who show potential for success but
who come from families and communities disadvantaged by low income and the lack of access
to the quality educational preparation necessary to attend college.
EOF came into existence in New Jersey a year after the 1967 riots in Newark.
The riots were the
catalysts that brought leading state and community stakeholders together to discuss ways to
eliminate causes of social upheaval and help people who were deeply rooted in poverty. A key
issue in these discussions was the correlation between ability and opportunity. Many students
in New Jersey had the motivation and ability to succeed in its colleges and universities but were
denied the opportunity to participate because of their poor academic preparation and low
socioeconomic status. The discussions led to the introduction of legislation to create EOF,
which was passed and enacted as the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund by the New
Jersey State Legislature in the summer of 1968.
In September of that year, 34 institutions of higher education were approved
for EOF programs
on campus and over 1,500 students enrolled as EOF students that year. Today, 60 EOF programs
operate at 42 institutions and annually enroll an average of 12,700 students. The programs are
divided into four sectors: independent, four-year senior public, community, and research
universities and colleges. All provide access and opportunities for students to improve their
quality of life through a college education.
EOF programs are income-based, not race-based, and are as different and
distinct as its institutions.
Each program satisfies a minimum of three operating missions: the institution, the governing
department-academic or student affairs-and CHE. Students meet institutional admission criteria
established for that particular campus as well as state financial eligibility requirements, which
currently extend up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In New Jersey, the average income
for an EOF family is $17,500, compared to the state average income of $56,000. Students in EOF
come from the state's 30 most distressed school districts or from special-needs school districts.
Students Must Meet Standards.
Notwithstanding these presenting issues, EOF students must meet the same
academic progress and graduation standards as all other students. This expectation does not
occur in a serendipitous manner because EOF programs operate from a best practices paradigm
based on the research involving retention and persistence of college students, particularly the
at-risk student cohort. Finally, there are four major components of every program model:
1) Each is student-centered, inviting students to become part of an EOF
2) each program stresses student involvement and responsibility; 3) active counseling, tutoring,
and student monitoring is stressed; and 4) each program involves a dedicated staff with strong
Drew University is a member of the independent sector and has supported
an EOF program since
1970. In the course of its history, Drew's EOF program, called the Educational Opportunity Scholars
(EOS) program, has been a leader in admission rates, retention, academic progress standards, and
grade-point averages. Data on some of these indices for the past three academic years are provided
in the tables below:
Cumulative Grade-Point Averages
Greater Than 2.00 for The Academic Year 1995/96; 1996/97; 1997/98
Academic Year 1997/98 n=86 1996/97 n=85 1995/96 n=84
n % n % n %
2.70+ 15 17 14 17 27 32
3.01+ 35 41 31 37 27 32
Credit Completion Ratio
ACADEMIC YEAR 1997/98 1996/97 1995/96
Earned 7533 6835 6200
Percentage 93 91 92
Summer Grade-Point Averages
SUMMER 1997/98 n=22
2.961 3.034 3.200
In keeping with the mission of CHE, EOF focuses on two goals-providing
support for its students'
academic and social development. The objectives of these goals are achieved through recruitment
and admission, summer program initiative, and academic year support services.
Though encouraged by its mission, the success of EOF has not been easy
to accomplish. Unlike
many of its New Jersey counterparts, Drew does not provide remedial or basic skills curricula
designed to gradually move students through various levels of math and language skills development
courses. The task of selecting students for participation in the program is a very involved process
since the average SAT and high school rank required by Drew for regular admission consideration is
1270 and top 25 percent, compared to students enrolled in the EOS program who have an average SAT
Score of 950 and a high school rank in the top 50 percent. For Drew, upwards of 86 percent of its EOF
population come from schools and communities in high distress school districts. Without the EOF
program, these students would not have been admitted to Drew.
How Are EOF Students Admitted?
Regarding the admission process, each EOF program is required to enroll
a minimum of 10 percent
of its institution's first-time, full-time New Jersey residents. EOF students are recruited in basically
the same way students are admitted through the regular admission process. However, four features
distinguish this process from regular admission procedure:
The combination of these four procedures have contributed to our success in meeting the state's
There is an EOF staff member whose primary role is
to recruit students for the program by cultivating
relationships with district high schools, students,
community organizations, and agencies.
Each applicant must have an interview with a member
of the EOF staff. It is through this process that we are
able to determine the applicant's level of motivation
and interest in their educational objective and in Drew.
Admitted applicants are given an opportunity to
participate in an overnight program on campus before
the due date for admission deposits.
A member of admission and financial assistance is
assigned as a liaison to EOF to help process and select
candidates from the applicant pool for EOF consideration.
Once students enroll in the program, they are required to attend our academic
program-a key to the success of Drew's EOF program. This six-week residential program gives
participants an academic and social orientation to Drew and helps them make the transition from high
school to college-level work. During the summer program, students engage in course work that
provides them with eight credits towards their college degree. Students are required to take a course
in writing and composition, small group dynamics, and study skills.
How Electives Help EOF Students.
For the past three summers, EOF students have been required to take an
elective through our
summer sessions in the social sciences, arts and humanities, or sciences. These electives provide
them with a more realistic view of what they will experience academically during their first year
in college. For the past two years, we have incorporated the concept of learning communities into
the program by connecting the learning objectives of the elective class with assignments in their
writing and composition courses. This concept teaches EOF students to look for relationships in
their courses and to approach them as a group of learning experiences instead of discrete events.
All courses are taught by Drew faculty and provide students with important collateral understanding
of faculty expectations. The success of this model is shown in the 3.10 GPA earned by participants.
Once the summer program ends, the real work of EOF begins with the commencement
of the academic
year. The combination of selective programming and delivery of supportive services by EOF staff
provide students with the opportunity to continue pursuing their academic objectives. Some examples
of programming involve collaborative efforts with many of the service offices on campus, including
Residential Life, Career Services, Financial Assistance, Health Services, and the Registrar. Through
these interactions, students are integrated into the fabric of the campus community and are put in
touch with a network of other support services they need. Another important support for students
is advising services. These services require frequent and assertive contact with first- and second-year
students. The exception to this model involves students on academic probation, who must meet with
their EOF adviser on a weekly schedule. One important advising tool is the Early Warning Academic
System developed by EOF that partners faculty in the role of retention by providing staff with frequent
periodic updates about EOF student academic performance and behavior. Through early intervention,
EOF staff are able to address and provide support services that result in more positive and manageable
This year, over one-third of all EOF seniors statewide graduated with gradepoint
of 3.20 or better. And at Drew, 16 of our 20 seniors, or 80 percent, graduated in four years.
The ultimate objective of the EOF Program at Drew and in New Jersey is
to equip students to break the
cycle of poverty and to improve their quality of life. The primary tool in this battle is the college degree.
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Copyright © 1999 Anthony Tillman