NYU Strives for Economic Diversity Through Opportunity Programs

NYU students love to complain that the university doesn’t do enough to provide financial assistance to its students — and many of these misgivings are valid, as NYU ranks as the seventh most expensive university in the United States, according to Business Insider.

Despite the university’s annual rise in tuition costs, NYU does attempt to provide financial benefits to low-income students from New York state through its Opportunity Programs.

OP at NYU consists of four different programs — the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program, the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program for incoming college students, the Science and Technology Entry Program and the Building Excellence in Science and Technology program for middle and high school students. HEOP and CSTEP are jointly funded by the university and New York state’s education department.

Students who want to be in OP are required to apply through the Common Application when they apply for admission to the university. The Office of Opportunity Programs reviews the application to see if a student meets both the academic and financial requirements, and students must also undergo an interview before the university determines whether they can be in OP.

Before starting their freshman year, OP students are required to participate in a six-week pre-college program the summer after their senior year that relates to their intended course of study.

Many students — like CAS sophomores Mollie Machado and Kevin Velez, who are both in HEOP — wouldn’t be able to attend NYU without OP.

“It’s been a blessing,” Velez said. “Ever since I was in the first year of my freshman year in high school, NYU was my dream school. I’ve wanted to come here since I was like 14, 15 years old.”

As a first-generation, low-income college student who was born and raised in New York City, Machado said there are opportunities for low-income students within the city during elementary, middle and high school, but it’s hard to access some resources. She also said that though she had originally wanted to go to a university outside the city, OP is one of the best things that’s happened to her.

“NYU would not have been an option for me if it wasn’t for the program,” Machado said. “My goal was not to stay in the city. I don’t know what happened, but I got HEOP, and I do not regret it.”

Academically, OP students are assisted via the six-week pre-college program, supplementary non-credit courses and counselors who guide them through the program during their four years at NYU.

“I’m pre-med, so [for] all the science courses, we have non-credit courses,” Machado said. “It’s like we’re doing double the work, but that double work really proves to be beneficial and such a good resource.”

Velez also explained that OP is essentially designed to help students become the best versions of themselves both academically and outside of school. OP especially reinforces the academic aspect of its services, he said.

“It’s just really hard to not do great with OP behind you because they’re on top of you all the time, and they’re always just like, ‘come to this or apply to [non-credit course],’ and the counselors are really great,” Velez said. “If you’re not doing that [well], they put you on a back-on-track program, and the OP counselors go with you step-by-step. They’re just there all the time, and I feel like because of them, a lot of kids from OP do really good stuff.”

OP does more than just provide financial and academic assistance to low-income students, though. Machado and Velez, who became friends through HEOP, have found that OP helped them socially as well — especially after participating in the six-week pre-college summer program.

“It’s really nice because you get to build a community before you go to the school where most of people aren’t like you,” Velez said. “People come from very different backgrounds than you, and it’s really nice to just have people already there that, you know, share a lot of similarities with you. So it’s really nice, it’s really helpful and if it wasn’t for that program, it would have been harder for me to adapt [to] NYU.”

Machado agreed that finding people with a similar background to hers was extremely helpful going into her freshman year.

“Coming to college in general is hard, and specifically a predominantly white institution, so that itself is a challenge,” she said. “OP just totally — not eliminated the challenge, but lessened the effects they would have on us.”

Though Machado thinks the people OP students become closest with are those they go through the summer program with, there are also OP students in her year who she hasn’t met yet because she hasn’t had classes with them. Still, though, she thinks what makes the program special in that aspect is the fact that whenever she meets another OP student, she feels an instant, underlying sense of familiarity.

“What’s really incredible about OP is that even if we have never taken a class together, like I don’t know you, if I see you and we mention that we’re OP, it’s like there’s an immediate — maybe bond is too strong of a word, but there’s an immediate sense of ‘you know what we’ve been through, and you know what we’re going to continue to go through,’” Machado said.

Velez had similar sentiments, saying that when he meets other OP students, he feels a sense of connection happening in the moment.

“It makes you feel 100-percent comfortable and in your comfort zone, and it’s really cool because you kind of know their story a little bit already, and there’s a lot of stuff that relates to both of you, but it’s really cool how OP can bring a lot of people together,” Velez said.


Read more from Washington Square News’ “Money” featureEmail Natasha Roy at [email protected].