RAYMOND-GARCIA: Low-income students face EOF budget cuts
I don’t know how many of you are aware, but Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) has proposed a $2.565 million cut to the Educational Opportunity Fund Program (EOF) for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The EOF Program in the state of New Jersey is unique to the state. It is a program designed to provide a safety net of support to students who are economically and educationally disadvantaged, meaning first-generation college students who come from low-income backgrounds. The program provides financial and other support services in an attempt to help students access higher education and retain them. This helps students who finish be the first in their immediate family to complete a degree in higher education, from community college to graduate and professional school. As a student here at Rutgers who benefits from all of the opportunities and resources the largest EOF program in the state provides, my ability to succeed in an institute for higher education would be severely impacted by the cuts proposed by the governor. I would no longer have as strong a safety net since sacrifices will definitely need to be made within the program to accommodate a smaller budget. This also goes for the thousands of other students at Rutgers and across the state who rely on EOF for one form of support or another.
Those of us who are a part of the EOF program already have disadvantaged life circumstances that necessitate participation in the program. Cutting program funding means that we, students who already have had to overcome a large amount of adversity, must once again be faced with a difficult situation. The elimination of resources will force a lot of us to reconsider our decision to go to college because of the looming price-tag and less support that will be a consequence of this proposed budget. While the argument can be made that the increase in the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) that many of us receive can help offset the costs associated with higher education and the EOF cuts, the TAG is only a financial support while the EOF program provides more than just financial assistance. Some of the non-financial supports that have the potential to be drastically cut are access to tutoring for a wide range of courses and access to one-on-one support coaching from counselors specifically hired to help us. These cuts undermine all of the efforts made by this program to provide extra support to us to help us obtain a degree so that we can have better futures than our pasts.
Christie has a track-record of having a lack of judgement when it comes to managing the state he is responsible for. Christie spent 261 days out-of-state in 2015 for his failed presidential run and has not markedly improved his record of being in-state since 2016 began, with him currently being out-of-state on vacation. Now his failed presidential campaign expenses have the potential to fall on the pockets of N.J. taxpayers. While Christie was attempting to win the hearts of the U.S. public (because he clearly couldn’t win his constituents over), EOF students across the state have been diligently working hard to earn our degrees in fields across the board. He is showing his lack of dedication to us as the future of the state with these cuts. Instead of wanting to eliminate estate taxes in N.J., which would become a tax cut for the richest 4 percent, he could instead increase these taxes and use that revenue to offset the yearly budget EOF receives. Instead of having spent more than $1 million on his presidential campaign that N.J. taxpayers may have to pay for, this revenue also could have gone toward EOF students. Instead of running away from his state responsibilities yet again, he could have stayed behind to be present for the EOF student’s day at the state’s capitol to discuss these cuts with us. This list is not at all exhaustive and I can keep furthering my point, but I think you get it.
If you feel particularly riled by this issue, I urge to you take action and help us keep the funding that has been of such great assistance over the years. Email all of your district legislators (by municipality) asking them to oppose the $2.565 million EOF budget cuts proposed for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Become a part of EOPSA, a group of representatives for Rutgers EOF students, and tell our administration and Christie that we won’t stand for this. We can’t let a program integral to the success of so many be downplayed and cut by a man who doesn’t know how to manage his state, its finances or his politics.
Vanessa Raymond-Garcia is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in women’s and gender studies and public policy. Her column, “Bridging the Divide,” runs monthly on Thursdays.
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