EDITORIAL: EOF-like programs are essential
Low socioeconomic status can severely impact social mobility
For 50 years, Rutgers has been offering students financial help through the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), and this week the University is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the program by hosting a commemoration ceremony, TED talks from EOF alumni and a celebration dinner. The fund exists financial aid and other forms of support, such as counseling, tutoring and developmental coursework to students who come from backgrounds with educational or economic disadvantages.
Being that EOF is a campus-based program, each of the 42 New Jersey institutions of higher education that take part in it are individually responsible for their own recruitment, selection and offered services. Criteria for eligible candidates include, as previously mentioned, a demonstration of educational or economic disadvantage, as well as the requirement of being a New Jersey resident for 12 months prior to receiving the award and meeting the academic standards set by the prospective institution.
Those from families low on the socioeconomic scale are significantly less likely to easily move up the social ladder, and it is not far fetched to think that much of that has to do with access to quality education. In fact, low socioeconomic status with lower educational achievement and poverty, which ends up having a serious impact on the nature of our society. Studies show that children from families and communities with a low socioeconomic status develop academic skills slower than their higher socioeconomic counterparts, and end up with poorer cognitive, linguistic and social-emotional processing skills, which translates to low income and even poor physical health in adulthood.
Many are of the opinion that if someone is simply willing to work hard in the United States, then the sky is the limit for them when it comes to opportunity. But in reality, things are much more complicated than that for students from socioeconomically challenged backgrounds as a result of the many roadblocks that come along their situations. But programs like EOF actually make the idea that no matter who you are or where you come from, if you’re willing to put in the work and strive to grow as a person by attaining an education, the sky really is the limit.
The aforementioned idea embodies, on the one hand, a sort of true American spirit of equal opportunity, and on the other, Rutgers University’s strongly held value of diversity and inclusion. Diversity in regards to race and ethnicity is unquestionably fundamental, but socioeconomic diversity plays a deep role as well. Here at Rutgers, programs like EOF help to ensure a true and universal sense of diversity.
In order to get as much good as possible out of programs like EOF, Rutgers and other New Jersey institutions should continue to focus more recruiting in communities of low socioeconomic status, which are often overlooked. By reaching students in these communities at a very young age and allowing them to understand that higher education is within their grasp, we can push toward ensuring equal access to quality education, and therefore potentially higher quality of life, for all students in our state.
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