SUNY Empire State College is launching the Empire Opportunity Program for the 2020 academic year.
The program offers financial aid and academic support to up to 60 students for classes both online and on campus in Buffalo. It is geared toward working students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Dana Brown, director of the program, said the aim is to enrich the lives of students who may not otherwise have access to higher education.
“When they walk away, not only are they prepared to return to the workforce or enrich the professions that they might already have, but they don’t have the worry of this looming cost over their heads," Brown said.
Brown added that discrimination has barred many from accessing high-quality education. She said proactive measures like this program help provide equitable access without putting students in debt.
Kyle Adams with the college said this program is the first of its kind at SUNY Empire.
“We wanted to do one our way, essentially, we’re an institution that serves these post-traditional students who are working full time or part time, raising family, leading busy lives, and working education into those lives,” Adams said.
Adams said that the program is intended to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds who otherwise couldn’t access higher education.
“It’s our responsibility, we feel now, with the tools at our disposal to try to correct some of those historical wrongs and actively increase these opportunities in those communities," he said.