Equal Opportunity Programs – another source of college financial aid to consider

Let’s face it, college is expensive. The latest US News reports that on average a four-year private college costs $37k a year while an in-state public college is about $10k. Some odd 100+ colleges cost about $50k a year now. It’s no wonder parents and students alike feel stressed. A recent Sallie Mae survey revealed that 8 out of 10 families state that the financial costs determine their college decision making. It’s truly sad to think that there are students out there unable to attend the college they want (or at all) because they can’t afford it. So what does one do? Applying for financial aid is the clear answer but have you heard of the EOP programs? Read on to learn more. 

Unless you are one of the lucky millionaires out there, you are applying for some form of financial aid. Need-based aid is the most common and includes things like grants, scholarships, work-study and subsidized student loans. The amount you receive is based on how much income your family makes but on average parents are expected to contribute 47% of their after-tax income for college each year. But what if your family is barely making it financially? What if you are the first person in your family to go to college? If you fall into both these categories, you might want to look into EOP programs. (Educational Opportunity Program). 

What is EOP?

The EOP (Equal Opportunity Program) helps low-income and first-generation college students succeed in college. The programs are all state programs and not every college in the state has them. They typically apply to in-state residents only but over the last several years some colleges have created the NOP (National Opportunity Program) to provide the same level of support for out of state students. New York state colleges have the HEOP program (Higher Education Opportunity Program) which is the same as EOP. All these programs, EOP/ NOP / HEOP not only help students financially but provide academic support as well. Each provides mentoring, counseling, academic advising and even a pre-freshman summer program to help students transition to college life.

How do you enroll in the EOP/ HEOP/ NOP programs?

Every student has to apply to their college of choice the same way everyone else does. They are subject to the same academic and social requirements. Once accepted, the student is considered for the program. In general, every college has its own program application process. Each has their own income eligibility requirements. They all, however, do review a student’s FAFSA application as part of the income eligibility process, so make sure you submit this on time.

Why should you enroll in the EOP/ HEOP/ NOP Program?

I know a lot of people who were part of these programs. Every single one of them was grateful for the experience. They were generally from under-resourced schools where they weren’t exposed to the same level of academics their peers had. Most of them didn’t have family members who could advise them on the college application process or experience as other students did. In short, they were at a disadvantage when compared to the majority of the student body. These programs allowed them to feel part of a community, one that shared similar experiences and backgrounds. It also provided them with additional mentorship and counseling resources if they found themselves struggling with any issues. It’s a known fact that a majority of college kids experience severe anxiety so having these resources is extremely helpful. Click here to read more about this issue.

Won’t I be classified as “not good enough” or “the poor kid” if I enroll in the EOP/ HEOP/ NOP program?

There is NO SHAME in being part of this program. Every student got into college through their own academic merits. There are no “breaks” for them. They have the potential to succeed the same as every other student. Most of the friends I knew who were part of these programs were valedictorians or at the top of their class. They had the same amount of impressive extracurriculars. Every single one of them graduated and went on to become successful. 

Do the Ivies, Stanford and MITs of the world have these programs or are these only available for state schools?

Yes! Most of the Ivies, Stanford and MIT have these programs. In fact, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton offer free tuition to accepted students whose family income is beneath certain thresholds. Stanford offers free tuition for those families who make under $125k. It further offers free room and board if the family makes under $65k. Harvard and Yale offer free tuition to those families who make under $65k. Princeton offers free tuition to those who make under $140k. 

What if your chosen college doesn’t have an EOP/ HEOP/ NOP program?

Do your research. Go talk to someone on the phone or in-person if possible. If you believe a college doesn’t participate in any of these programs, contact the Admissions office and ask about support programs for low income or first-generation students. As a starting point, you can go to Big Future, and search for colleges that offer these types of programs.

Below are some additional links that may help you in your search:

US News College Search

Example of EOP FAQ page at a university

Financial Aid Resource for College Students. A free overview of how to go about financial aide during your studies.

Other great resources if you are a low-income student

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