Educational Opportunity Program receives national award for student retention success

NEW PALTZ — The State University of New York at New Paltz Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) was one of only four institutions to recently receive the 2004 Noel-Levitz Retention Excellence Award for its Freshman Year Experience retention program.

“The EOP Freshman Year Program has reaped significant retention benefits for SUNY New Paltz,” said Lisa Chase, director of EOP at New Paltz. “Our first-year student retention rate has been above 80 percent since 1995, rising from 85.2 percent that year to 88.8 percent in 2002.”

The Freshman Year Experience is a proactive, intensive program for underrepresented students at New Paltz. It serves 120 freshmen per year, selected on financial need and academic eligibility. Eighty percent of the students come from inner-city high schools, 60 percent speak English as a second language or are bilingual, and approximately 98 percent are first-generation college students. The program uses a comprehensive monitoring system to track student progress and active outreach techniques to intervene early, if necessary.

The New Paltz EOP program received its award at the 2004 National Conference on Student Retention on July 14 in New Orleans, La. The staff also presented a workshop at the national conference, offering attendees the opportunity to learn the valuable retention ideas that led to New Paltz’ success.

The Lee Noel-Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Awards Program was established in 1989 to honor the retention achievements of postsecondary institutions throughout North America.

Each year, awards are given to recognize the most successful, state-of-the-art retention programs in use at various kinds of institutions, with many different target groups of students. Nominees for awards are judged on identifiable and measurable institutional outcomes, originality and creativity, use of resources, and adaptability for use at other institutions. Winners are selected by a national panel comprised of leading campus-based retention practitioners.

“These programs exemplify what colleges and universities can do in terms of helping students make the most of their college experience,” said Teresa Farnum, vice president of retention services at Noel-Levitz. “The four institutions honored this year have created programs that foster student achievement and put men and women on the right path to success.”

The three other institutions receiving awards were: the Georgia Institute of Technology; Southeastern Oklahoma State University; and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.