Senators, Rutgers administration, faculty lobby for restoration of EOF program funding
A consortium of state legislators, students, faculty and Rutgers administrators have testified before the New Jersey Senate over the last several months to restore $2.565 million to the Educational Opportunity Fund after Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) proposed cutting it in March.
University Vice President for External Affairs Peter McDonough said in an interview with The Daily Targum in April that President Robert L. Barchi would testify before the state legislature, along with New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards, Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon and Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor at various hearings.
Students were also invited by the University to testify before the state Senate and Assembly to explain the importance of the EOF program, he said.
“The governor’s proposed budget resets every year and pretty much takes out the legislative additions and usually the legislative additions are added back in by the legislature, and we’re confident we can hold it there,” McDonough said.
Eight Democratic senators argued for restoring the full funding on Monday, according to a press release by the New Jersey Senate Democrats. They included Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Legislative Black Caucus Chair Ronald Rice, among others.
Christie cut $1.6 million from the EOF budget last year, but lobbying from interested groups not only restored it, but added another $1 million to the program, according to the press release.
More than 40 colleges and universities participate with the program, including 28 public institutions. Throughout the state, there are 60 programs, which support more than 17,000 students every year.
“Our faculty has a firsthand knowledge of the benefits and support the EOF counselors provide in helping students succeed in academic work and in coping with the many pressures of college life,” said David Hughes, president of the American Association of University Professors – American Federation of Teachers, in the release.
The School of Arts and Sciences professor was part of the faculty contingent lobbying the legislature on Monday.
Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15) said the program helps ensure that every student can afford a college education, and that anyone able to put in the work should be able to attend.
“They should not be denied because of unequal opportunities. The EOF has been one of the more successful programs in the country. It should be supported and maintained,” she said.
Weinberg said the program lowers barriers for students who have financial disadvantages which are the only obstacle in their attending college.
“The program helps our institutions of higher education operate more efficiently, and we firmly believe that steady or increasing funding will help make higher education in New Jersey stronger in general,” Hughes said.
Barchi has so far had meetings with members of the budget committees in the Senate and the Assembly in addition to testifying, said University spokesperson Greg Trevor in a statement.
“He and the staff have had several face-to-face meetings with members of those committees as well,” he said. “We have argued for a restoration of the EOF funding and there is strong support, by the members of both parties, for restoration of funding for this program. We are hopeful that a restoration of EOF funding will be included in the final budget which will be adopted later in June.”
"It is one of our highest priorities so we would do whatever we needed to do to make sure that students who would normally have to avail themselves of those funds would not be denied access to Rutgers," he said.
Nikhilesh De is a School of Engineering junior. He is the news editor of The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.