Grace Maruska, Carly Mihovich, Chelsie Riche, Ahmad Salman Zafar, and Fralinda Zazay
The Educational Opportunity Fund Program (EOF) is a postsecondary program in New Jersey that provides both state-funded financial assistance as well as state-funding for
institutions to develop support services for students who are from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The program has shown immense value to
the students served and improves the equitability of college access across the State (OSHE, 2015). However, there is much to be learned from research on the implementation and outcomes of EOF programs, particularly given the differences in implementation across institutions and experiences among students.
In partnership with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE), graduate student researchers from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University conducted a mixed-methods study to assess the extent to which program outcomes differ by student and institution-level characteristics and the support services identified as most valuable by students and staff. The study used a variety of quantitative and qualitative research methods, including structured interviews with OSHE staff, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), and EOF program staff; focus groups with students; and an analysis of institutional, financial aid, enrollment, and completion data housed in the New Jersey Statewide Data System (NJSDS) (formally referred to as the New Jersey Education to Earnings Data System). Convenience sampling of study participants and limited participation from community colleges in both interviews and focus groups impacted the generalizability of this study’s findings.