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A Vision, A Mission, and Goals for the
New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund
A Vision for the Future
Through its Educational Opportunity Fund, New Jersey will be the national leader in providing access to higher education for its students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. EOF will play a central role in increasing the diversity of students participating in postsecondary education and contribute to the preparation of citizens for entrance into the state's skilled workforce. EOF will develop partnerships with colleges and universities, K-12, pre-college, and community-based programs to strengthen the pipeline between each level of education in support of the transition to higher education. The Fund will support high-quality programs and educational experiences intended to assist students to persist to graduation and to prepare them with the knowledge, skills, abilities, and values which are necessary to compete in both a regional and global multicultural workplace, graduate study, and other personal and civic endeavors.
The Mission of EOF
EOF contributes to the development of a college-educated public that reflects the diversity of New Jersey, by working in partnership with New Jersey colleges and universities and the K-12 educational system to provide access to higher education for students from families/communities disadvantaged by low income and the lack of access to the quality educational preparation necessary to attend college. The Fund will partner with established pre-college efforts and seek to initiate additional opportunities to identify and prepare students for college at the pre-collegiate level. At the postsecondary level, the access and opportunity provided by the Fund is not limited to simply meeting freshman (or transfer) student enrollment goals but to also focus on student success. In this vein, EOF provides support for educational initiatives, support services, and leadership development activities that assist students to improve their chances of success in specific majors and careers fields and prepares them for the changing world of work and to assume leadership in their communities and the state.
Goals related to the EOF Mission:
Critical Elements for Institutional Plans
EOF's statewide goals and expectations for participating institutions must be linked to the general mission of the Fund as well as to the different missions of participating institutions. Each institution, within the bounds of its unique mission (which determines its educational program, service area and student profile), will develop the services and program that will increase EOF students' opportunities for success.
* - From OPPORTUNITY FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM: EOF Planning Report, adopted October 1997
The goal of the Fund is to identify promising students (those who demonstrate the commitment, motivation, and potential for success) who, with the special/supplementary educational, and financial support provided by the Fund and participating institutions, demonstrate the commitment and potential to successfully complete undergraduate study leading to an approved certificate; an associate degree; transfer from a county college to a senior college or university; a baccalaureate degree; and for graduate and professional students, leading to an approved master's, doctoral or professional degree. EOF is not intended to serve as an adult basic education, language proficiency, literacy, or short-term job-training program.
The 10% freshman goal should remain to ensure that public institutions share in meeting statewide access needs and that higher educational opportunity continues to be an option for promising students from the state's neediest communities and school districts.
- Improving Student Success
Improving student success, as measured by a) community college to senior institution transfer rates, b) cohort retention, and c) graduation rates, is the major task facing the Fund. In New Jersey, we have achieved proportional (and in some cases more than proportional) freshman enrollment of minority and disadvantaged students when compared nationally. Yet New Jersey, like the rest of the nation, has not adequately or successfully addressed the issue of improving opportunity as measured by student graduation rates. Each participating institution should examine it strengths and weaknesses and connect program activities with its mission by developing a plan to close the graduation gap between EOF and other students. In addition, future funding requests and allocations should target as a priority specific initiatives aimed at improving EOF student transfer and graduation rates and preparation for majors in which disadvantaged students are underrepresented.
- Developing Partnerships with Pre-College and the K-12 Community
Earlier student identification and intervention with educational enrichment, leadership development, and career exposure will be necessary to ensure access and opportunity. This becomes even more critical as colleges and universities seek to increase entrance requirements and strengthen curricula to prepare students for an increasingly competitive workplace and global citizenship. Early intervention becomes an important strategy to help reduce a student's need for extensive remediation at the college level. In addition, it is clear that early identification and intervention are necessary to increase the enrollment of minority males who are woefully underrepresented in higher education. To expand the pipeline of students who are able to take advantage of the educational opportunity provided by the Fund, EOF must establish closer working partnerships with established pre-collegiate efforts such as College Bound and the Federal Upward Bound and Talent Search Programs. In addition, the Fund must develop early identification and intervention initiatives for populations and communities that current efforts are unable to serve.
- Connecting Education with the World of Work
Career exploration, skills development, and internships/cooperative education to prepare EOF students for the world of work are other experiences critical in a student's education that the Fund should promote. By and large, EOF students come from communities and demographic groups that experience high levels of long-term underemployment and unemployment. This is particularly true of those from federal and state designated labor surplus areas. Many of these areas have not experienced the economic growth and positive transformation of the past decade. An important component of the EOF effort in the future will be to create local initiatives within campus programs to help develop workplace skills including redesigning counseling to place greater emphasis on specific job related skills such as leadership and communications, interpersonal relations, and teamwork. Also campus programs should focus on providing opportunities for work-based learning through planned use and allocation of campus employment to developing internship opportunities. EOF programs, in collaboration with other resources (i.e. partnerships with businesses and nonprofit organizations), must educate students about the changing economy and workplace and provide students with a regional/global perspective as a component of career education.
- Initiating a Research Agenda
Improving student success and program outcomes will require research and program experimentation beyond the current state of the art in student retention practices and current literature on the subject. In addition to assisting in policy development, the Board will require information about changing demographic and economic issues, and emerging best practices to improve student learning for diverse student populations. The Fund should establish the capacity to help institutions initiate research on local issues that will help improve the quality of education and student success. It is essential for the Board as a policy making group to fully understand the barriers to student success.
- Enhancing the Program's Image
Campuses are microcosms of the larger society and, as a result, societal conflicts over issues of race, ethnicity, and class are also concerns for EOF and students who enroll through the program. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon campus EOF staff, students, and the parent institutions to cast programs in a favorable light and to operate in accordance with the highest levels of professionalism and responsiveness, maintaining high expectations and standards for students.