|Shawnee arnes is pictured working with non-traditional student Michael Trones.|
The Educational Opportunity Center, established in January of 2003 at the College of Eastern Utah, has one thing going for it that many other “back-to-school” encouragement programs may not have: million-dollar support from the U.S. government.
“We want to make the transition to the classroom as smooth as possible,” said CEU EOC Managing Director Shawnee Barnes. “Many people don’t know what resources are available. Financial aid processing is critical, as it can make or break our clients’ educational dreams. We’re here to connect the dots for our clients so they can walk into their first day of class with as few external worries as possible.”
Institutions nationwide design their own personalized TRIO programs and submit them to the feds for approval and funding. Barnes said all the schools in Utah have written and submitted proposals, but none had been accepted – until now.
After being accepted last January CEU’s EOC will be funded for the next five years with a $1 million grant from the Department of Education. The goal of the program is to have 250 students enrolled by next fall. Of these students two thirds of them must be non-traditional students. That means they must be either first generation college students or low income. The other third is available to anyone seeking higher education financial help.
This program will also help students who are working toward completion of their GED and in need of financial aid in order to start college.
This particular program does not have money in itself but there is a lot of federal money, grants, loans, and scholarships available. “We help tap into these sources” says Barnes.
“The program has done nothing but good for me” says Michael Trones, a disabled student attending CEU studying Psychology. This gave him the opportunity to work because construction and other jobs were no longer options for him.
However, the establishment of EOC is not meant to be a recruiting tool for CEU Barnes said. The program simply aims to build educational opportunities, at any institution, for those who do not otherwise have them.
“We realize no single institution offers every educational option, so we are working to see that our clients find a program that is a good fit for their individual needs,” Barnes said.
“Whether it’s cosmetology, a welding certificate or a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, we at EOC recognize the importance of higher education and the positive impact it has on individual lives and, in turn, the community. The source of the education matters less than the education itself in building stronger individuals and stronger communities.”
EOC is designed to help 1,000 people annually in Utah, Wasatch, Duchesne, Uintah, Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties. In support of this vast geographical spread, UVSC has formed partnerships with College of Eastern Utah in Price and its branch campus in Blanding, as well as Utah State University – Uintah Basin.
Shawnee Barnes, coordinator of the Educational Opportunity Center, works daily with non-traditional students on their pathways to success.
“More individuals, businesses, and institutions need to be aware of this unique ‘heads-up’ to our adult, non-traditional population desperately seeking a post secondary education,” she said. “Frequently, our nontraditional students become our highest achievers and greatest contributors at CEU. EOC is a phenomenal program for displaced workers, single parents and ambitious adults anxious to contribute meaningfully to society.”
For low-income college hopefuls who would be the first in their families to attend college, can contact Shawnee Barnes, for the Carbon and Emery counties, (435) 613-5243 or you can e-mail her at email@example.com