The labor union that represents faculty and staff at the State University of New York system on Wednesday called for an additional $7.6 million for the Educational Opportunity Program as the state budget remains under negotiation. 

The United University Professions are backing the request by SUNY itself to increase funding for the program in order to broaden it and provide more financial support for the students who participate in it. The funding would also be aimed at expanding the system's Pre-Medical Scholars Program. 

“SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Program expands access to public higher education by making it affordable. EOP opens new doors for New Yorkers to achieve success not only for themselves, but at their schools and future workplaces. With 78% of EOP graduates choosing to live and work in New York state after completing their degree, supporting the success of SUNY’s opportunity programs is a no brainer,” said Fred Kowal, the union's president. “Today, our members and advocates made it clear that the widespread effects of funding EOP will tremendously boost our state and make public higher education and a college degree more accessible for thousands. The onus is now on our state leaders to do right by the students who rely on this program by ensuring that the necessary funding is allocated this year.”

The SUNY system has faced a number of broad challenges over the last two years of the pandemic as enrollment fell and students and faculty have been in a mix of remote and in-person instruction. Lawmakers in the state Assembly and Senate are backing the push for the additional aid. 

"SUNY's EOP programs are a national model for bringing higher education within reach to students who otherwise would not be able to continue their education," said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the top Democratic lawmaker on the chamber's Higher Education Committee. "The Assembly has been committed to growing this transformative program, and we remain focused on expanding EOP in the final budget."

The spending plan is expected to be approved by the end of the month.