The Act 101 program, officially called the Pennsylvania Higher Education Equal Opportunity Program, has been operating at Eastern for the past three months without state funding.
Recently, the school was finally notified that Governor Ed Rendell has chosen to continue funding the statewide program this year.
“We got the news that Act 101 was retained in the governor’s budget,” said Dr. Lisa Hemlick, Act 101 program director.
Hemlick said they learned on Oct. 22 that $3 million was allotted for the program, compared to the $8 million requested by 60 colleges and universities in Pennsylvania.
Eastern received $60,000 last year to support 50 students in the Act 101 program, but this year the school only expects to receive $27,000 for the same number of students.
“The request (for funding) is still pending,” Hemlick said. “It’s not finalized.”
Eastern was unsure whether funding would be offered but planned to continue the program anyway.
“The students are not affected,” Hemlick said. “There is nothing different for them this year.”
The Act 101 program assists students from modest incomes, she said. Students enrolled in the program receive advisory and counseling support, priority access to tutoring, the writing center and counseling and an Act 101 grant as part of their financial aid package among other benefits.
“Schools around the state are dropping out (of Act 101),” Hemlick said, explaining that not all are able to participate with such limited funds. “We’re pleased that we’re included.”
“We thought it would totally be cut,” she said, pointing out that Act 101 represents the only state-supported educational opportunity program. “But it’s not really enough money for schools to run efficient programs on that grant money alone.”
Eastern must contribute financially, picking up costs no longer covered by the state, to keep the program running as usual.
“We’re going to keep that commitment to the families and students,” Hemlick said.