What is the history of San Jose State University’s Educational Opportunity Program?
SJSU’s program began in the fall of 1969 with fewer than 200 students. At that time, the campus atmosphere was fraught with tension within the administrative and academic structures, as well as between the institution and student organizations. There were two distinct EOP’s: “Black EOP” and “Brown EOP.” Each meant to serve distinct student populations. Although SJSU did not experience the extreme police interventions and beatings that characterized student demonstrations at other universities, EOP students nevertheless incurred blatant hostility.
In the early 1970’s, the separate EOP’s were integrated into one centralized unit. By the end of the 1970’s, EOP at SJSU had grown into a more viable program and became the model program, which had significant impact on the campus and in the community. EOP programs and services grew throughout the CSU system, providing more structure, guidelines and regulations, and bringing more funding for EOP grants and services.
The seeds of change planted in the 1960’s and nourished in the 1970’s started to bear fruit in this decade. This was a hopeful time. By the early 1980’s, EOP was an established Student Affairs Department. Growing numbers of EOP students were being admitted to SJSU. EOP became a comprehensive admissions and retention program with expanded services that included pre-collegiate recruiting and pre-admission advising, academic orientation, tutoring, skills development and test preparation, summer bridge programs for freshmen and transfer students, career counseling, and EOP grants.
In spite of all the progress made, challenges prevalent throughout the 1990’s threatened to erode many of the hard-won gains. In California, Propositions 187, 227 and 209 had a chilling effect on program development and access to education for underrepresented students, many of whom come from low-income families. Because these initiatives dealt with educational opportunity, health, curriculum and instruction, and access to public education, visible consequences of these propositions could be seen in campus struggles and community uncertainty. Policy decisions still under discussion had led to heightened anxiety regarding the ramifications of projected increases in the number of students who sought admission to college.
Late 1990’s state funding went from line item to block grant, thus, giving each campus discretion regarding spending of funds; SJSU incrementally reduced EOP funding. Other CSU campuses continued funding at pre-block grant levels and increased funding over time adding new services and staff. 2002 was the last Summer Bridge cohort of students to participate in the program at SJSU. EOP funding had now been completely depleted. By 2004 SJSU’s EOP consisted of one coordinator and over 2,000 students. All support services had been eliminated. In 2007, the Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC) report on SJSU stated “graduation rates of some groups, especially African American and Latino males, are cause of serious concern…some groups have dismally low graduation rates…four-year graduation rate for underrepresented minorities is 4.5%.” In 2008, SJSU faculty and staff organized to demand the full restoration of EOP. They formed a task force and identified the following as base-line requirements for EOP: One MPP Level Director, Designated Space, Budget, and an Institutionalized EOP Council with representatives from the task force. In 2009, the University President agreed with the task force recommendations and sent out a memo to the campus community stating the following: “SJSU is committing both financial and personnel resources to renew and strengthen EOP in accordance with the specific needs of our students and proven best practices.”
The process to fully restore EOP began in 2010. Today, EOP support services include: 5 Academic Advisors, two mentor programs, a tutoring center, the Beyond the Degree program, EOP Workshops, the Professional Development Series, EOP LINK Programming, EOP Honors Luncheon, EOP Graduation Ceremony, the Guardian Scholars Program, etc. The Summer Bridge program made its return in 2012. We have over 2,000 students in EOP today.