A 10 percent cut in funds expected next year means that the number of Bridge students will go from 120 to 85. Photo by Olivia Irvin.

Not even the threat of looming budget cuts could put a damper on the mood at the student barbecue hosted by the staff of the Education Outreach Program (EOP) and Bridge. The celebration was held in honor of EOP and Bridge students’ hard work this school year. Students were treated to an obstacle course, an in-house talent show, and a game of musical chairs.

The EOP and Bridge programs provide opportunities and services for first-generation college students as well as students from low-income families, low-performing high schools or other disadvantaged situations. 

Functioning as a subset of EOP, Bridge allows students who did not meet the university’s admission criteria, but did show great potential to succeed, to attend  the UC under special circumstances.

In the coming year, however, EOP and Bridge will be forced to admit fewer students.

“We’ve been told that we’re going to take a 10 percent cut,” EOP and Bridge director Michelle Handy said. “We will be able to continue to run Bridge, but it will be cut back, and we will have to reduce the number of [incoming] students from 120 to 85.” 

In addition to taking fewer students, EOP will leave one vacant part-time position unfilled and cut back on a variety of events, services and funding.

Barbecues, like the one last Friday, are just one of the perks offered by Bridge and EOP. Members take advantage of free MSI academic tutoring, mentorship programs, time management workshops, training on filling out job applications and securing interviews, as well as preparation for graduate school and the workforce.

Grisele Uribe, a third-year EOP student who attended the barbecue, said she appreciates the community that EOP offers.

“I’m the first person in my extended family to go to college,” Uribe said, “and [EOP] helps me get around. I have no one else to tell me the dos and don’ts.”

The Division of Student Affairs is trimming $3 million from its budget. Half of that money will come from Housing and Dining Services. The other half will come from other programs like EOP and Bridge.

Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor of student affairs, said the cuts do not reflect the importance of these programs.

“We’re giving students an opportunity who traditionally might be counted out of the UC experience, perhaps because they … haven’t had the same opportunities to be prepared,” McGinty said.

McGinty and her associates are currently conducting research to measure the success of EOP, which aims to retain students through graduation. 

Susan Welte serves as college administrative officer for Oakes College, whose population is 60 percent EOP. She said she has few doubts about the programs’ rate of success. 

“I would say that the programs are successful,” Welte said. “And it’s a combination of academic support and social support, personal support.”

Despite their success, EOP and Bridge are still subject to budget cuts and a significant reduction in class size.

Despite budget cuts, the Bridge program and EOP met at Oakes on Friday, May 15 for a social barbecue that included a game of musical chairs. Photo by Olivia Irvin.
Despite budget cuts, the Bridge program and EOP met at Oakes on Friday, May 15 for a social barbecue that included a game of musical chairs. Photo by Olivia Irvin.

EOP director Handy acknowledged that the class size of Bridge has fluctuated throughout the years. From 1996 to 2006, the Bridge program only accepted 60 students. While the reduction in class size to 85 incoming students is difficult, Bridge will still be able to help 25 more people than it did in the 2005-2006 fiscal year.

“It was 60 and then we moved to 120,” Handy said. “So, we’re going back to 80, so we’re not going back to 60. It’s a cut, but it’s still better than where we were previously.”

Handy said the budget cuts were simply realities the university would have to face. Still, the timing for a global economic crisis could not be much worse, she noted.

“There are more and more first-generation students entering into the university,” Handy said. “So you have this situation where you have more first-generation students coming in … and at the same time the budget cuts.

“It’s not operating correctly,”  Handy continued. “We need more funding and more support to help students transition into the university and to be successful here.”