"E is Not For Equality" by Emma Landry
EOP, or Educational Opportunity Program, is a program at many universities that works to create financial opportunities for those in need. The qualifications to be a part of this program at Sonoma State University, according to the EOP website, are as follows:
1. Have historically low income
2. Be 1st Generation (parents don't have a completed 4-year degree, regardless of country)
3. Be a California Resident
4. Be an undergraduate applying for the first time to Sonoma State University
5. AB540 designated status
While I was desperately job hunting as a sophomore at Sonoma State, I stumbled upon what seemed to be the perfect job for me. It was an assistant position in which I would primarily be writing emails and checking over documents for any grammar errors or typos. My dream job is to be an editor, doing exactly what I currently do for Flux, so this position seemed perfect. I was talking to the woman that would potentially become my boss when she asked: “are you on EOP?” I had to answer “no.”
I didn’t find a job sophomore year, which has since become a reason I have had to struggle more financially than I ever have. The search continued into my junior year, and after being turned down many times for not being on EOP or work-study, I lost hope. I did eventually find a job, but that was only after the department I work for had reached their quota for EOP students.
EOP is intended to be a program that creates a level playing field. It is supposed to allow more financially-needy students to have the funds they need to be successful in college- and it does- but it also leaves the rest of us behind.
I am the child of a single mother of two kids living in one of the most expensive places to live. My mom claims me on her taxes, meaning her income is what is used to gauge my eligibility for financial aid, as well as any programs like EOP. My mom worked hard to get a job that pays well and allows her to support us, but that does not mean it’s easy for her and that I don’t want to help her out as much as I can- if only I could find a job.
My mom is like many: living in the middle class, but still not able to shell out an extra (at least) $20,000 a year for my education. I, of course, could take out loans, but then I’m putting myself at least $100,000 in debt. I don’t qualify for financial aid, I’m a white, middle class, female, which is why I haven’t been able to get any scholarships except for the occasional $500 Middle-Class Scholarship, and I am not eligible for most on-campus jobs. EOP works to favor the most financially-needy students, which is great. Of course they need that extra income, but where does that leave a middle-class student like me?
This is not to say that I match the struggle of minorities. I’ve been blessed with an amazing family and a pretty comfortable life, but somehow that means that I don’t need money or a job? Middle-class students are given little to no help in financing our education, so what are we supposed to do when our university has also disqualified us from having job opportunities? Something has to give, and a program like EOP can’t function if it welcomes everyone into it, so the cost of education needs to change. It should not just be a simple fact of life that either the student or their parents need to go broke in order to get a degree.
In most European countries, a public education is free. By putting such a high price tag on a higher education, it can be discouraging to many young adults who aren’t financially stable enough to foot the bill. The U.S. probably couldn’t make such a drastic change and make public education free, at least not all at once, but we may want to start looking at adopting the European model for education and slowly implement it into our current system. It may be a step in the right direction and allow more people to make the decision to educate themselves, creating a more educated society. One day, we may not have to go broke to take advantage of a college education.