Utica Observer Dispatch Op-Ed: Guest View: HEOP Cuts Would Destroy Dreams

Phyllis A.H. Breland, Hamilton College

Hamilton College and the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) have been working together for 40 years, ensuring that those eligible and willing to work toward gaining a higher education are given an opportunity to do so.It’s an accomplishment that rests in 40 years of caring, financial support, personal support, advocacy and exceptional outcome. It’s an accomplishment that recognizes that the opportunity to achieve is not given to all, but that all are entitled to earn it. The Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program is designed for New York state residents who do not present the traditional Hamilton academic profile, but who demonstrate that they can compete successfully in this academically competitive environment. Critical to this opportunity is funding through the state Education Department. Currently, HEOP is experiencing a 12.5 percent funding cut in the 2009-10 academic year. For many of our students, this financial support from entities such as the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the state Education Department provide the defining line that makes attending an institution like Hamilton College an affordable option. HEOP is a vital part of the Hamilton community, which has benefitted from the contributions that our HEOP students have brought to the Hill. And we are proud of the contributions they continue to make in the world after graduation. As we move forward in this difficult economic time, we ask that our governor reestablish the commitment New York state made 40 years ago. We must ensure that all who have the desire and promise to attend college have the means to do so. The future of our country rests in the ability of our students to access education. We request that the governor restore full funding to HEOP and TAP for the benefit of all students participating in HEOP programs across New York state. We ask not just for Hamilton, but for all who care about access to college and the future of our students. As one Hamilton HEOP student noted, “Realize that cutting funds is not just cutting budgets, but cutting dreams.” Everyone has the right to dream, and it is our responsibility to help those dreams become a reality.