At the January board meeting, Texarkana College Trustees heard a report on the success of TC’s Educational Opportunity Center (EOC). College officials reported that the program is helping level the playing field for Bowie and Cass county residents who want to attend college but who lack the resources or support needed to start the admissions process.
“The EOC program helps low-income and first-generation Texas residents of Bowie and Cass County obtain higher education credentials,” said Lee Williams, III, TC’s EOC Director. “Although our program is housed at Texarkana College, we help students get enrolled in higher education programs regardless of what college or university they choose to attend.”
TC launched the EOC program in 2016 with help from a federal TRIO grant award from the US Department of Education. The grant outlines five program objectives: (1) helping participants obtain their high school equivalency diploma (if needed), (2) assisting participants with completion of the federal financial aid application (FAFSA), (3) providing resources to assist with the college application process, and (4) ensuring qualified students successfully enroll in an institution of higher education.
Williams said the federal grant objectives are lofty, but TC’s EOC has exceeded expectations.
“Each year TC’s EOC program is required to serve 1,000 participants,” said Williams. “At the end of 2019, we had served close to 3,200 participants with 69% of those identified as low income, first-generation college students.”
Williams said the program is designed to equip students with the tools necessary for success as they navigate their college career and obtain their credential.
“The college-going process is intimidating for many people,” said Williams. “It’s hard to know where to start when you don’t have anyone helping you that has gone to college before you. That’s where the EOC program comes in, we provide college preparatory workshops, financial aid application assistance, academic and career advising, college application assistance, GED placement, and financial literacy seminars.”
Williams said EOC staff members also help students identify scholarship opportunities.
“Since 2016, EOC participants have secured more than $100,000 in external scholarships that provide the extra help students need to make ends meet. So many people struggle to balance work, family and financial obligations, and help from external scholarships provide the means to help make it all work for some students.”
Two years ago, TC’s EOC program instituted their own signature scholarship program.
“The Overcoming Barriers Scholarship is made possible through donations from Bowie and Cass County businesses and residents,” said Williams. “No matter how prepared a student is for college, there’s always unexpected expenses and financial strains that can cause students to drop out. The extra support that comes through the Overcoming Barriers Scholarship has helped lift the burden for many students for them to be able to stay on track and achieve their dreams of college completion. Community support and engagement are a signature part of our program as we continue to get the message out about the services we offer and the lives that are changed through this program.”
Williams said the numbers speak loud and clear when it comes to showing the need for support through the EOC program. Numbers between 2016 through the end of 2019 show:
- 2,552 participants applied for postsecondary admissions
- 2,138 participants applied for financial aid
- 320 participants received a secondary school diploma
- 1,550 participants enrolled in postsecondary education programs