Although created to help low income students, the influx of new admittances into EOP&S (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) has caused the program to become a burden on students and in some cases even hinder their success.
EOP&S offers benefits such as priority registration, transportation services, book vouchers, financial aid help, one on one tutoring and personal counselors. To be admitted to the program a student must qualify for the Board of Governors Waiver, be enrolled full time and have some type of educational disadvantage such as being previously enrolled in remedial Math or English.
Once admitted each student has a few duties to stay in the program. They must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, meet with one of the counselors provided three times per semester and complete nine to twelve units per semester.
“The purpose of our program is to support students, we’re not a punitive program,” said EOP&S Director, Niki Dixon-Harrison. “We are here to support the most vulnerable population of students. All of our resources have been streamlined to support the success of our students.”
However, due to the higher influx of students in the last two school years, the once helpful program has become just another stressor for its students. The days of meeting with a counselor the same week that you schedule an appointment are long gone. Now a two week notice is required before a counselor will give you the time of day. The first recommended date to see a counselor has passed and the second is fastly approaching but many students can’t even manage to get a counselor for one session let alone three per semester.
“They have a lot of students. They don’t have enough resources to provide to the students,” said EOP&S student, Alyssa Hernandez. “Just today I called and they’re already booked for this week, next week, even till October.”
Hernandez has noticed the program’s aid has vastly declined since she was first admitted during the Spring 2016 semester. Whether it is counselors that are impossible to meet with or tutors that won’t help unless you’re on their set schedule, the program seems to be struggling to stay afloat around the new sea of students it has to serve.
“Yes, we do need more counselors,” said EOP&S counselor, Dr. Maribel Morales. “We don’t have enough counselors right now. We are hoping to hire one more full time for next year.”
The program grew to 963 students served in the last school year and as that number increases the number of staff members also continues to grow. After increasing the number of EOP&S coaches from one to two and adding another part time counselor, Dixon-Harrison is under the impression that they can now help all of their students.
“I’m currently waiting for one of our EOP&S coaches to be approved for hire so she’ll be able to provide additional support assistance,” said Dixon-Harrison. “And I’m also waiting for another adjunct counselor to also be approved for hire for our department.”
A program that offers tutoring should have the ability to provide it; however, in the EOP&S program the student tutors are only available for limited hours and getting ahold of them is worse than their counselors. After finally getting a response from one, Hernandez simply told them she was not available two days out of the week and then never heard from them again. Luckily PCC has other options for help such as the Writing Center in C-345 and Math Success Center in R-406, but is it the point of the program to give students extra deadlines and force them to find help on their own?
“At first it helped me a lot because they did have the resources to give me,” said Hernandez. “There were counselors that were able to see me the next week or sometimes they would fit it into that same week but now they’re not helping me that much anymore.”
It should have been Hernandez’s last year at PCC last semester but thanks to the EOP&S counselors she’ll be here for one more year. After receiving a D in Sociology she was told by one counselor that it wouldn’t affect her. Since that counselor was too busy to meet for a second time, Hernandez met with another one who told her that D was the reason she did not get into Cal State University Fullerton and should’ve been retaken several semesters ago.
“I feel like [the counselors] all give you the run around, they all give you different information,” said Hernandez. “One will tell you ‘you don’t need this class.’ and you see another counselor [who says] ‘you actually need this class I don’t know why they told you [that you didn’t].”
EOP&S also offers a college success support group every Tuesday from 12-1 in C-217 typically lead by Dr. Morales. In the group, which usually consists of ten to fifteen students, they have the opportunity to ask quick questions whether it be about personal challenges, mental wellness or school related. Attending the group also counts for one counseling session which is needed to stay in the program.
“The support group helps the students tremendously because sometimes they have quick questions that I can answer,” said Morales. “When the students attend one of the support groups it also meets one of those [counseling] requirements.”
Dixon-Harrison is aware that her tutors cannot help every student and her tutoring department is lacking. She encourages students to seek outside help as the EOP&S tutoring should be seen as a secondary option for help.
“Our tutoring component cannot support the one on one tutoring of all 960 plus students,” said Dixon-Harrison. “That’s impossible. I wouldn’t have any counselors if I did that.”
Whether it be cracking down on the amount of students admitted to the program or adding even more staff that can assist them in the way they were promised; there has to be some change if EOP&S actually wants to help their students.
“In terms of the book vouchers and the metro pass they’ve helped me,” said Hernandez. “It’s a good program but I feel like they’re lacking in resources if they’re going to continue admitting in students.”