The Education Opportunity Program (EOP) is asking students to approve a $2.75 lock-in fee increase in the upcoming spring campuswide election.

The program currently receives a $1.25 lock-in fee per student per quarter. If students approve the measure, each undergraduate and graduate would pay a total of $4 per quarter during the regular school year and $3.58 in summer toward the EOP. In order for the proposed fee hike to pass, at least 50 percent plus one of the student electorate must vote ‘yes.’ Joe Mazares, director of EOP Research and Cultural Services, said the program sustained a 10 to 12 percent budget cut over the last two years.

“[The $2.75 increase] will allow us to sustain our current program for the undergraduate population and give us the opportunity to provide even more services, programs and activities,” Mazares said.

Mazares said the EOP tried to get the initiative on the ballot in Winter Quarter 2004 but was unsuccessful.

The EOP now provides peer advisors to students and helps co-sponsor some of the on-campus culture weeks, Summer Transitional Enrichment Program and Freshmen Summer Start Program, Mazares said.

It also offers emergency loans to first-generation college students and students coming from low-income households to be used for dental, medical, textbooks or housing emergencies that are not covered by the Undergraduate Student Health Insurance Plan. Mazares said EOP limits each student to $400 in loans per year, and students must show that they have looked for funds from other sources before EOP gives them any financial support.

“We try to helps students maximize the fullest extent of their financial aid award and not use the grant as an additional source of income,” Mazares said.

Keenan Moore[, co-chair of the EOP student support fee initiative planning committee, said the fee hike would allocate some funds to hire more peer advisors and allow the program to fund more student groups.

EOP does not plan to cut any specific programs or services if students turn down the fee increase, Mazares said. But the program would have to reduce the amount of services and funding it now offers. EOP currently employs about 20 students, some of which are peer advisors and others who work with groups to develop student programs and activities, Mazares said.

“If this doesn’t pass, we would limit the amount of hours students work, or we may not co-sponsor as many programs,” he said.

Mazares said some staff members also work fewer hours to help conserve EOP’s funds, and money saved through that is put into a reserve account for the program. The EOP currently employs 18 fulltime staff positions, and in the last two years it has eliminated some staff positions or left them unfilled to stave off the effects of the state budget cuts.

“In the next two years, with the current level of funding, we may eliminate those reserves.” Mazares said.

Theodore Russell, a junior law and society major and a member of the Black Student Union, said he supports the increase because it helps both new students and minorities.

“[The fee increase] is a good idea, because of the fact that they help kids get adjusted to college life – especially minorities,” Russell said.