Educational Opportunity Program continues to excel
By Christine McKeown
Binghamton University's Educational Opportunity Program, which has the highest graduation rate of any opportunity program in New York state, continues to rise to new heights of success.
"Our stats have been on an upward trend," EOP Director Randall Edouard says. "Ninety-one percent of our students are in good academic standing, which is a step up from the 88 percent we had last year. With only 9 percent in some sort of academic jeopardy, it's the first time in program history that we've been in single digits. It's an incredible accomplishment."
These continually improving statistics are thanks to the program modifications made by Edouard since becoming director in 2009, and they have only just begun to prove their potential for success.
One of the most vital changes concerned the structure of the Binghamton Enrichment Program (BEP), a longstanding tradition that is considered the foundation of the entire EOP. The four-week summer session for incoming freshman aims to ease the transition into a college environment. The revitalized BEP places students in an extremely regimented atmosphere and makes academics its top priority.
"I believe in students being academically disciplined," Edouard said. "As a result, BEP is designed as a very structured entity. It places a lot of academic pressure on our students, which ultimately allows them to live up to the great potential that they have."
This past summer's BEP was the first in which students were able to take four classes instead of the three required in past years, as well as the first time that students received academic credit for their work. These changes proved effective, with this year's freshman class boasting an impressive 95 percent of students in good academic standing, 65 percent with a GPA of 3.0 or better and 18 percent with a 3.5 or better.
"We love that students are now able to take four classes during those four weeks and also earn credit for them," Edouard said. "It was difficult for them to crunch all those classes into such a short time, but that hard work definitely carried over into the fall semester because they did tremendously well. The numbers are staggering in regard to the freshman who went through that program. We haven't ever seen numbers like that before."
In addition to the BEP changes, EOP has also been able to accomplish its goal of supplying students with a sizable stipend for textbooks. Students now get $260 every semester, more than double what was offered in past years.
"It's always our goal to try and increase the stipend amount as much as we can," Edouard said. "It's a tradition we want to keep forever."
The overall graduation rate of EOP students has risen to 78 percent, up from the 73 percent rate it had maintained in 2010, and is higher than the graduation rates of regularly admitted students at other SUNY centers. Edouard's long-term goal is for the graduation rate to equal or exceed the overall graduation rate of Binghamton University.
"The only one we're not higher than is ourselves," he said. "I enjoy trying to reach that goal because it just means success for EOP students and for Binghamton University — nobody loses with a goal like that."
Edouard's changes have brought the program to a new level, but he credits the statistics to the unwavering support that EOP receives from the University. Having been involved with opportunity programs for more than 20 years, he understands how crucial a supportive administration is to a program's success.
"The support is incredible, and it's not spoken about enough," he said. "I have never seen this kind of support in any other program. This University loves EOP and I'm happy to be in a place like this where we get so much true support, because it's what makes us an elite program."
The administration has played a large role in EOP's success on campus, ensuring that the program always has the funding to provide students with the best services possible. Edouard said that the President's Office, the Provost's Office and the Office of Student Affairs in particular have assisted EOP in reaching some of its most essential goals.
"From those three offices, we have gotten a great level of support," he said. "They're the reason why we are the number one EOP in New York state.