Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP)

The New York State Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) is committed to the recruitment and academic success of historically disadvantaged students with strong academic potential and personal initiative who would otherwise be excluded from higher education at a private New York state college or university. The program provides financial, academic, and personal support to maximize student success. HEOP and its activities are supported, in whole or in part, by the New York State Education Department.

Vision and Mission

HEOP will be known on campus and in the community as an advocate and a resource that provides eligible low-income and underrepresented students access to higher education and support services to promote their persistence and graduation.

The mission of the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program is to recruit, enroll, support, retain, and graduate New York state students who qualify according to the academic and economic guidelines of the State Education Department and RIT.

Services and Support

RIT is a rigorous, fast-paced academic environment. As such, it hosts a wide array of content support within the colleges. Additionally, a key component of the HEOP program is the high quality support services we offer exclusively to all of our students. Our services sustain the HEOP culture of study, community, and student engagement. If students are academically successful, their confidence grows as do the number of subsequent opportunities, such as additional scholarships, awards, leadership, research, and study abroad opportunities, as well as securing internships or co-ops with major employers. Our students have done incredible things while at RIT and we work to connect them with new opportunities. Our goal is to have every students complete their degree with a well-rounded resume that will attract the best employers. All this begins with accessing support services we offer:

Our qualified staff are dedicated to providing caring and helpful academic and personal support for students. They are sensitive to the issues of underserved populations and the challenges HEOP students face throughout their college careers. Experienced and informed, the HEOP staff is available to guide, advocate, and assist students with referrals to other resources. Current and past HEOP students rate the counseling relationship as being extremely valuable to their years at RIT. We are here to welcome new students to campus and cheer them at graduation, and we work with them every step of the way.

HEOP students can request one-on-one tutoring for specific courses and every effort will be made to hire qualified tutors to meet these requests. We work hard to match our students with the best tutors available. In return, students are expected to meet regularly with their tutor a minimum of one hour at the same time each week. Students are allowed to request up to 4 hours per week of tutoring for a specific class. Current and past HEOP students highly rate the tutoring component of our program.

LEAP stands for Leaders Encouraging Achievement & Pride. Each new freshman is paired with a HEOP upperclassman based on common interests and major. The mentor’s role is to help their mentee successfully transition to RIT academically and socially. This leadership position serves to reinforce the value of academic excellence and the power of community in HEOP. Mentors are trained and guided at the Fall LEAP Kick-off event. Once paired, mentors and mentees meet at least three contacts during each fall and spring term. Additionally, there are planned social activities for mentors and mentees to interact as a group.

All freshmen attend two 2-hour sessions of study hours each week while enrolled in classes fall and spring semesters of their first year at RIT. Study hours take place on the dorm side of campus and are proctored by a HEOP tutor/proctor. HEOP students report that the study hours provide a time to focus while also supporting the community of HEOP students.

Financial Support

RIT provides financial support to eligible HEOP students who demonstrate need by filing a FAFSA and TAP application on an annual basis. HEOP students have an assigned financial aid expert in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships as well as an HEOP counselor who can assist in budgeting college expenses, making good financial choices, and help in the development of financial literacy. HEOP students are provided with robust financial aid packages from many of the financial aid sources listed below:

  • RIT Grant
  • New York State Tuition Assistance Program Grant (TAP)
  • New York State HEOP Grant
  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
  • Federal Direct Loan (note: HEOP students are held to annual loan limits per NYSED)
  • Federal Work Study (this is an opportunity for students who can find work on campus to contribute their earnings towards their college expenses)
  • Outside scholarships

It should be noted that all RIT students and/or their families are expected to contribute to the costs of attending RIT. HEOP students are therefore expected to work to make this contribution to their college expenses.

In order to continue to be eligible for financial aid, students must be in compliance with the Federal and State Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements. Questions regarding a student’s specific financial aid package, as well as financial eligibility questions, should be directed to the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Leadership and Engagement

In addition to a strong academic emphasis, HEOP believes all students should experience some form of leadership and engagement activity while in college. Research shows that students who have a balance of successful academics and campus engagement/leadership are more likely to persist and graduate. Our students have held elected positions in major student organizations, such as the ALANA Collegiate Association (ACA), the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE), and the Muslim Student Association (MSA), among many others. We are proud of our students’ leadership and engagement activities and recognize these student leaders. We also provide opportunities within HEOP for leadership and engagement:

The HEOP Student Advisory board functions as a bridge between program students and HEOP staff. Nominations for board positions occur each year. Applicants must be in good academic standing and be passionate about HEOP to qualify for this leadership position. The board represents all program students and each year they identify a theme to direct the focus of programming activities—everything from designing the annual HEOP t-shirt to planning events to build HEOP pride and community. Members of the board have opportunities to present to higher administration and alumni, encourage law-makers to support HEOP through lobbying efforts, and set the tone for a strong and cohesive community of students and academic success. The board is advised by the director of HEOP and has its own budget for executing various activities.

LEAP stands for Leaders Encouraging Achievement & Pride. Upperclassmen are paired with freshmen students based on common interests and major. The mentor’s role is to help their mentee successfully transition to RIT academically and socially. Social activities will be planned for mentors and mentees to interact as a group. Additionally, there are planned social activities for mentors and mentees to interact as a group. Serving as a LEAP mentor is a great leadership opportunity designed to welcome new freshmen and reinforce the values of HEOP. 

  • Fall Welcome Back event: Each fall semester, HEOP sponsors this annual event where HEOP students gather to reconnect after the summer and freshmen are introduced to upperclassmen. This event kicks off the academic year and is well-attended by students and staff.
  • Town Hall Meetings: Each semester, HEOP sponsors a Town Hall Meeting for all program students. Guest presenters, program updates and activities by HEOP staff and the Student Advisory Board make these meetings informative, fun, and a great way to stay connected with the program. Food and beverages are provided and attendance is required.
  • Spring Welcome Back event: HEOP kicks off the spring semester with a fun ice skating event. The HEOP Student Advisory Board plans this annual event where HEOP students rent skates and skate on RIT’s Ritter Rink at no cost. Hot chocolate and cookies are served in the adjoining conference room.
  • HEOP Appreciation: Each spring semester the HEOP staff plans an end-of-year event to recognize and celebrate student achievement. Graduates, Honors and Dean’s List students, mentors, and the Student Advisory are recognized. Attendance to this celebratory event is required and dress is business casual.

Other activities throughout the year are planned by staff and/or the Student Advisory Board. Themed socials, collaborative activities with students from other programs, and other types of events serve to sustain the strong HEOP community.

DDI Summer Experience

All incoming HEOP freshmen attend an intensive 4-week summer residential pre-freshmen program called the DDI Summer Experience. DDI stands for Division of Diversity and Inclusion and the Summer Experience serves students from various division programs. As a result, HEOP students have a broader range of students to connect and interact with.

The goal of the DDI Summer Experience is to provide an immersive experience for students to make meaningful connections with peers, upperclassmen, faculty and staff and to prepare students academically for a successful transition to RIT in the fall. During the 4-week summer program, pre-freshmen students live on campus in the dorms with trained peer advisors who oversee students, study hours and other activities. In addition to taking college courses and meeting with their counselors, students build a strong community with the staff, peer advisors and amongst themselves. They become familiar with the campus and college life. They participate in fun weekend activities, including team-building, recreation, and some off-campus adventures.

Of all the components in HEOP, students report that the summer pre-college program is the most valuable because of its positive and transformative impact. Our approach in the summer program and throughout HEOP is to provide academic challenge within a resource-rich environment. We do not place students in remedial classes. Instead students take college credit classes and a series of college preparation workshops. The college credit earned can be applied towards RIT degree requirements. Peer tutors assist students during evening study hours. Students have access to a computer lab and can request a Chromebook, but are highly encouraged to bring their own laptop.

Throughout the summer program, HEOP counselors meet regularly with each student. HEOP counselors are professionals with experience working in higher education with low income students from diverse backgrounds. The counselors provide guidance, support and referrals to resources, and can address academic, personal, social, financial, and career issues. Counselors will introduce students to staff in their respective academic departments.

On the weekends, students attend various cultural and social activities sponsored by RIT. At the end of the Summer Experience, a formal closing banquet is planned to recognize students and their accomplishments during the summer program. By persevering through challenge in a caring community, students build confidence, resilience, and a determination to succeed academically.

Pre-freshmen students should plan their summer calendar around the dates of the DDI Summer Experience. During the summer program, students remain on campus. Family vacations and doctor and dentist appointments should be scheduled either before or after the summer program dates.

The summer program is no cost to the student. Books and school supplies are provided as is food and housing. Students are encouraged to bring spending money for snacks or small personal purchases. Otherwise, everything is covered except transportation to and from home and campus.

Successfully completing the 4-week residential summer program is required to finalize HEOP eligibility.


Eligible HEOP students must:

  • Have permanent residence in New York state
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Have not earned more than 15 college credits while in high school
  • Have not registered for college courses for credit after high school graduation
  • Be inadmissible to RIT under regular admission guidelines
  • Meet NYS economic eligibility guidelines
  • Attend and successfully complete a 4-week residential summer program
  • If applying as a transfer, applicants must have been in an approved opportunity program at a previous college

Academic Eligibility Criteria

Students considered for HEOP fall below the overall academic criteria for the RIT program they are applying to. RIT uses a differential admissions process, which means that criteria will vary by program. Fall 2021 and beyond: RIT will be "Test Optional" for all undergraduate programs. Applicants may choose whether to report test scores to be considered with their application. 

Please direct any questions regarding HEOP academic eligibility and admissions to the Undergraduate Admissions office at (585) 475-6631 or by email at admissions@rit.edu.

Economic Eligibility Criteria

RIT’s Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships reviews academically eligible applicants for economic eligibility. The first step is for HEOP student applicants to include their social security number on the RIT Admissions application. The next step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as it is available.  HEOP applicants must then also complete the NY State TAP application. It is essential to add RIT’s school code to both the FAFSA (002806) and the NY State TAP (0650) application. Applicants who have not submitted valid FAFSA/TAP applications or whose FAFSA/TAP applications are missing RIT’s school code will not be reviewed for economic eligibility.

HEOP grant guidelines require applicants to be historically economically disadvantaged. Therefore, applicants must fax or email copies of either tax transcripts (4506-T) or signed federal tax returns, including any schedules for the 3 past years indicated on the HEOP Financial Worksheet. Tax information should be provided for parent(s)/step-parents, whether married or not married, as well as for the student if they filed taxes. This documentation can be emailed to the HEOP office at kpsheo@rit.edu.

The HEOP office provides ongoing guidance and communication to assist applicants in determining eligibility and applying to RIT through HEOP. Please direct any questions regarding HEOP eligibility and admissions to Kris Shamp at (585) 475-2506 or by email at kpsheo@rit.edu.

IMPORTANT! Successfully completing the 4-week residential DDI Summer Experience is required to finalize HEOP eligibility.

For the incoming class of 2024-25:

Total # of Household Members (including head of household)

Total Annual Income in 2022 Calendar Year















For each additional person add


Admissions and Eligibility FAQs

Yes, because both state and institutional funding is limited, there are more qualified applicants than there are openings in HEOP. In general, for freshmen admissions we accept one of every 4-5 eligible students we interview.

We look for students who have a genuine interest in the RIT program they are applying for. RIT is a rigorous school so focus, discipline, determination and willingness to work hard and be resilient are characteristics of successful candidates. We are also looking for students who are open to new experiences, have a positive attitude and are willing to step out of their comfort zone.

No. HEOP is not what's known as a “minority access program;” rather, it is an academic access program that was established in 1969 by the State Education Department (SED) to provide access and principally academic support, for any qualifying New York state student—that is, a student who meets both academic and economic eligibility criteria.

HEOP students must meet both economic and academic criteria. Therefore, a sibling may qualify economically, but not academically. The guidelines for HEOP admission at RIT vary by program, but are all based on HEOP students being inadmissible under RIT's regular academic admission guidelines for that specific program.

HEOP transfer acceptance depends upon the availability of both space and funds. You can check with the HEOP office prior to entry to find out if transfer students are being accepted for the semester you plan to enter RIT.

No. Unfortunately, there are cases where eligible students were not aware of programs such as HEOP or who did not realize that HEOP is designed for first-time college students who have not taken college courses for credit after graduation from high school. If you have already earned college credits, you are not eligible to receive HEOP support services.

Yes. Parents/students are expected to contribute to the student’s college expenses. The amount will vary depending on your FAFSA results.

Financial aid awards are based on two semesters of attendance for up to 10 semesters. In general, HEOP does not provide funding or academic support services for summer classes. Students may enroll in summer classes at their own expense.


Freshmen Admissions Process & Required Documentation

RIT’s Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships reviews academically eligible applicants for economic eligibility. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Please complete the FAFSA a soon as it opens (sometime between December and January). The prefer deadline for completing the FAFSA for regular decision is January 15. It is essential to add the RIT school code 002806 to the FAFSA. It is also essential to include the applicant’s social security number on the RIT application. Additionally, it is essential to complete the TAP application. Applicants who do not have a FAFSA/TAP on file or whose FAFSA/TAP is missing the RIT school code will not be reviewed for economic eligibility.


Please direct any questions regarding HEOP academic eligibility and admissions to the Undergraduate Admissions office at (585) 475-6631 or by email at admissions@rit.edu.

How to automatically be screened for HEOP eligibility

Applicants completing the Common Application should select the application waiver for financial hardship. In addition, applicants must complete the RIT supplemental application and should select HEOP on this application. This will waive the application fee and the applicant will automatically be reviewed by the Undergraduate Office of Admissions and the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships for HEOP eligibility. If you are approved by both offices for eligibility, you will then receive the HEOP application materials by email.

It is critical that you follow deadlines throughout the process. Late application materials, including late completion of the FAFSA, will result in applicants being excluded from the pool for the upcoming academic year.

STEP 1: Complete all HEOP application materials and submit directly to the HEOP Office within one week of receiving the application materials.

HEOP application materials are sent to all students deemed eligible for HEOP by Admissions and Financial Aid. You will receive the HEOP application materials by email. Please check your email daily! The HEOP Application includes a request for your high school transcript, a counselor recommendation for HEOP, an application essay, and the financial worksheet. You will also have to provide supporting financial documentation as listed on the financial worksheet prior to your interview.

STEP 2: Complete a personal interview.

All eligible freshman applicants who submit their application and financial documentation materials on time will be scheduled for a personal interview with HEOP representatives. Interviews will be conducted via Zoom. Please note that interviews cannot be scheduled if our office has not received your application materials beforehand. After the first week of March, interviews for eligible applicants who have submitted application materials will be for possible waitlist only. After completing the interview, those students selected for entry through HEOP will be notified officially by Admissions by mid-March.

STEP 3: Commit to attending RIT by May 1.

Accepted HEOP students do NOT need to pay a deposit. However, they MUST accept their offer to attend RIT through the Admissions portal by May 1st. After May 1st, applicants on the admissions waitlist will be contacted.

STEP 4: Complete the Financial Aid Verification Form requested by the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships by May 15.

The HEOP office provides ongoing guidance and communication to assist accepted students in submitting documentation. Please direct any questions regarding HEOP documentation to Kris Shamp at (585) 475-2506 or by email at kpsheo@rit.edu.

STEP 5: Successfully complete the Pre-Freshman Summer Program*

All incoming freshmen attend a summer pre-freshmen program called the DDI Summer Experience. Please see the Summer Experience page on the Services and Support tab for a full description of the summer program. Students live on campus while taking college credit courses and workshops. The credit courses can be applied to students’ degree requirements. Weekend cultural and social activities are sponsored by RIT. HEOP counselors meet regularly with each student. Evening study hours with peer tutors and access to a computer lab also help students with the completion of classroom assignments. Summer tuition, room, board, and other costs are at no charge to the student.

*Students are highly encouraged to earn grades of B or better in the summer program. Students who earn grades of C or higher will be eligible to enter RIT as a full-time HEOP student the following fall semester. Students performing below these minimum standards will be subject to further review.

Transfer Eligibility and Application Process

Transfer applicants must have been in an approved opportunity program funded under Section 6451 or 6452 (HEOP, EOP, SEEK, College Discovery) of the New York State Education Law.

STEP 1. Apply to RIT through regular Transfer Admissions and make sure to add the RIT school code 002806 to your FAFSA. RIT Admissions accepts applications on a rolling basis.

STEP 2: Once accepted by RIT, contact Kris Shamp in the HEOP office at kpsheo@rit.edu, (585) 475-2506 to see if we have openings for transfer students in HEOP.

STEP 3: Complete the HEOP Transfer Application paperwork.

Kris will email a HEOP Transfer application and the required forms, including the Transfer Certification form which must be completed by the applicant’s previous college’s HEOP director. It is the applicant’s responsibility to follow-up with their previous college(s). Once we receive everything we will contact you about acceptance and your aid package will be adjusted for the semester you are entering RIT. You will also be scheduled for a mandatory HEOP Transfer Orientation.

Student Responsibilities

All students accepted at RIT as a student enrolled through the New York State Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) have the following academic, financial, and program responsibilities:


  • Attend classes and labs.
  • Attend HEOP’s weekly study hours (applies only to freshmen students).
  • Actively seek assistance from HEOP tutors, tutoring labs, professors’ office hours, and/or other academic support units.
  • Maintain a term and cumulative GPA of at least a 2.0
  • Contact financial aid, HEOP, and academic department before withdrawing from courses and/or taking an LOA.
  • Students on academic probation will meet more frequently with their assigned HEOP counselor and may be required to complete a non-credit study skills course. 


  • Students are eligible for up to 10 semesters of HEOP and TAP aid— five years of fall and spring semesters. HEOP does not provide funding or academic support services for summer classes. Students may enroll in summer classes at their own expense.
  • Enroll in at least 12 credit hours each term and meet federal and NY State Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) guidelines.
  • Complete and submit all financial aid forms each year.
  • Keep track of accrued federal student loans.


  • Attend scheduled appointments with assigned HEOP counselor. All students will be sent a courtesy reminder email of their counseling appointments.
  • Notify the HEOP Office of any changes in personal or academic status that may impact HEOP eligibility.
  • Use and check the RIT e-mail regularly and provide a working cell number.
  • Participate in HEOP activities/events coordinated by the HEOP office and the Student Advisory Board.
  • Participate in HEOP’s mentoring program; LEAP (applies only to freshmen students).
  • Participate in student clubs/organizations/sports and/or leadership opportunities.
  • Respect the rights and property of others and uphold the image of RIT and HEOP by adhering to RIT’s policies.


Equal access to education at all levels has long been an objective of the New York State Board of Regents. Since the mid-1960s, the state has supported special programs at the postsecondary level which extend educational opportunity to persons who have been academically and economically disadvantaged.

The first such program, College Discovery, was established in the community colleges of New York City in 1964. In 1966, a corollary program, SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) was started in the four year colleges of The City University of New York (CUNY).

The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) was established in 1967 to provide similar services to disadvantaged students in the two- and four-year institutions of the State University.

Finally, in 1969 the state established the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) to serve disadvantaged students in the independent colleges and universities of New York state. Sections 6451 and 6452 of the Education Law provide the statutory basis for all of the programs and require the statewide coordination of program activities in the three sectors—CUNY, SUNY, and independent colleges—under the Board of Regents.

HEOP has provided more than 50 years of access, advocacy, and academic support for educationally and financially deserving New York state residents who have the ability to succeed at independent colleges such as RIT. HEOP also fosters student's individual growth by adding strong programmatic and institutional support.