By Tobin Jones
The Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, or EOPS, has celebrated fifty years at City College. The program, which marked its half-centennial last year, offers special assistance to California community college students from marginalized backgrounds.
“On Strike, Shut it Down!”
EOPS has its roots in student protests in the late 1960s at San Francisco State College, (Now San Francisco State University) culminating in the longest student strike in US history. The strike, which saw five months of bloody clashes between demonstrators and SFPD’s notorious Tac Squad, were sparked by demands to increase admissions of Black and other nonwhite students, and the implementation of courses focusing on the history and experiences of these groups.
Prior to 1969, “Approximately 60% of students in the public schools in San Francisco were nonwhite, but only 6-8% of the students at State,” according to Tomasita Medál, a strike organizer. At that time, state schools used a system called “Tracking” to plot students’ educational paths and “students of color were given classes that did not give them enough to fulfill the requirements to get into college,” said Medál. Anita Martinez, another striker who later headed the EOP office at SFSU, recalled that in most classes, “I was the only student of color. And it got pretty lonely.” (Full disclosure: Guardsman faculty supervisor Juan Gonzalez has endorsed Martinez in her bid for City College Board of Trustees)
Concessions to students included commitments to expand the school’s special admissions program, which granted acceptance to applicants from marginalized backgrounds who would not otherwise meet state entry requirements, and provided institutional support to assist them in meeting their educational goals. Later that year, California passed legislation creating a similar initiative, Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, at community colleges.
Statistics Show Program’s Impact
As the program celebrates five decades, has it achieved its goals of redressing educational inequalities?
Issues of structural racial and economic inequality in higher education persist to this day, including throughout the California Community College system. Studies after study has shown a significant gap in educational outcomes between racial groups.
But statistics on City College pupils enrolled in EOPS indicate that the program may play some part in correcting these disparities. 29% of EOPS students graduate, transfer to a four-year institution, or earn a certificate, compared to just 14.1% of the general student body. The difference is even more pronounced when looking at the most historically disadvantaged groups. Data from Spring 2020 for African-Americans and Latinx show completion rates of 19.4% for EOPS participants and 13.2% and 14.8%, respectively, for African-Americans and Latinx in the general student population. It also shows superior reading and math scores among EOPS students when compared to those not in the program.
Staff, Student Praise
Katrina Evasco, the current interim-director of EOPS at City College, believes that the program remains essential. “We are serving students that are parents, first generation college students, foster youth, that are experiencing homelessness, or are immigrants,” she said. “They’re very resilient. But they may not have the financial resources or the cultural capital to navigate the system. And so when this happens, a lot of students come into our program because they need that type of support (that we provide).” Evasco says that the services EOPS provides give students who otherwise may feel like the deck is stacked against them the confidence they need to achieve their educational goals. “They feel more prepared, they feel like they’re ready to go, and that’s something that we want our students to feel.”
Rashmi Adhikari, a nursing student who was part of EOPS and later was employed there as a student worker said that participating in the program changed the course of her college career. “They help you with your books, transfer process, counseling…financial aid advising, all these great things,” she told The Guardsman, and encourages students who think they may be eligible to apply. “They actually do care for students, in terms of how they’re doing in their classes…and that they reach their end goal.”