Higher Education Opportunity Program Finds Success at RIT

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RIT author’s study finds diverse ethnic population in program

Almost twice as many people go to college now than in 1970. But not all of them would make it there without the assistance of programs like the Higher Education Opportunity Program.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s HEOP program serves almost 90 students helping them achieve academic and personal success, says Linda Meyer, HEOP program director. "Once students find their niche, it’s like they get their wings and take off flying," she says.

HEOP serves economically and academically disadvantaged students, admitting them to colleges they would otherwise not qualify for and helping them steer a clear course through the maze of higher education. Services include a broad-based tutoring program, individual counseling and mentoring, a summer prep program and financial aid.

Latty Goodwin, reading specialist in the RIT Learning Development Center, recently published a book based on a qualitative study of HEOP students at an upstate New York private university. Resilient Spirits, Disadvantaged Students Making it at an Elite University, was published in June 2002 by RoutledgeFalmer.

Among the study’s findings were that HEOP students have diverse ethnic backgrounds frequently marginalized in higher education, are predominantly female and educated in large, urban locations in New York state. One of the most significant findings was that the particular group she studied had a retention rate of 95 percent. She also found that first- and second-generation immigrant students outnumbered historically disenfranchised students in the program.

"The HEOP students in this study found they needed to seek space within the university that allowed them to maintain their core identities, manage daily stigmatization, and become more resilient, successful students," Goodwin says.

At RIT, HEOP students are similarly diverse. Twenty-nine percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, 25 percent are Hispanic, 24 percent are black, 19 percent are white and 3 percent fit into the "other" category. Males outnumber females, with 33 percent of HEOP students being female.

"Without the HEOP program, diverse, ambitious and determined students wouldn’t have the opportunity to complete higher education," says Meyer. "While these students may need support to be successful, once they are, they support and give back to their communities and contribute to a more diverse workforce, especially in areas that are typically underrepresented."

Proposed New York state budget cuts will reduce HEOP funding by half. Visitwww.cicu. org for more information and to express support for HEOP.

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