Extension of Family: A Phenomenological Study of New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund Program Counselors

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The New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) is a statewide initiative that provides college access to economically and educationally disadvantaged high school graduates. Supporting approximately 13,000 students every year through financial and educational support, EOF remains a significant pathway to higher education for many first and second-generation low-income students. Research on the EOF program exhibits a student-centric approach that focuses on student success, student retention, and the overall experience of first and second-generation students. The student-centric research approach towards the EOF program has advanced an understanding of this student population. However, research on the impact of professional staff members who work with EOF students is rare. Even more obscure is the hidden exchange of counseling between the EOF counselors and the EOF students. This qualitative phenomenological study illuminates the essence of counseling and the lived experience of EOF counselors directly from their perspectives. Three themes emerged from the data analysis: (a) empathetic relationship development, (b) the counselors’ blended authority within their multifaceted roles, and (c) reliance on technology as a delivery tool and conduit for their services. The findings reveal the depth of work and engagement it takes for EOF counselors to succeed in their roles, ultimately leading to success for their students. Recommendations are provided regarding current EOF counselors and future research on academic advising, counseling, and the New Jersey-based EOF program.

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  • 03/05/2024
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