SU’s Affirmative Action pledge requires enrollment from local high schools

[The Daily Orange] SU’s Affirmative Action pledge requires enrollment from local high schools

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The Syracuse City School District is working with Syracuse University to ensure opportunities for local students and a diverse student body at SU. This occurs amid hearings of Supreme Court cases which could effectively ban affirmative action.

In late October, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and v. University of North Carolina, which call into question the constitutionality of colleges considering race in admissions. These cases contend that the practice violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Like Harvard and UNC maintain in their respective cases, SU considers affirmative action policies a cornerstone of building a more diverse campus, said Sarah Scalese, senior associate vice president for communications at SU.

“A diverse student body and inclusive environment creates opportunity and enriches our entire community,” Scalese wrote in an email to The Daily Orange in November. “Syracuse University will remain a place that is welcoming to all and provides opportunities for students of diverse races, ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.”

While Black children made up 14% of the under-18 population in the United States in 2021, SCSD’s student population is 48.1% Black. In the city of Syracuse, the median family income is $40,490, just over half of the nation’s average of $70,784.

When lower revenue generated through property taxes leads to meager local school budgets, SU has programs to level the academic playing field.

In 2021, Syracuse offered 36 scholarships to SCSD students to attend their Summer College Program, in a bid to introduce local students to college life. In an SU News release, SCSD superintendent Jaime Alicea said the opportunity showed students that their “future is limitless” and they “can and will be successful in college.”

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SU is also a partner institution with Say Yes to Education Syracuse, a program that connects eligible graduates of SCSD with full-tuition scholarships to institutions across the country.

Some local programs SU engages with are aimed at ensuring students in the area interact with the university and benefit from its proximity. Through the Liberty Partnerships Program, SU offers preparation for college and careers, academic support and social programs to SCSD students. SU also provides mentorship from SU students through the PEACE Inc. Big Brothers Big Sisters program, as well as class time STEAM enrichment activities through the Extended Learning Time program.

More recently, SU committed to keeping standardized testing optional for applicants through the spring of 2025. Before colleges and universities across the U.S. made testing optional due to the COVID-19 pandemic, studies found a correlation between low funding for schools and lower academic performance compared to adequately-funded districts.

A 2021 report found that SCSD, which has approximately 20,000 students, was underfunded by about $2,200 per student, according to syracuse.com.

SCSD’s SAT average of 902 in 2018 was well below the SU average for incoming students in the same year, 1271, and the national average score of 1060. In a November SU News release, SU cited its goal of ensuring students aren’t disadvantaged by standardized test requirements in admissions. According to the release, students’ decision test scores will not impact their scholarship offerings from the university.

Mike Haynie, SU’s vice chancellor, said programs like the Summer College Program will allow the university to introduce SCSD students to the college environment.

“We’re proud to partner with the Syracuse City School District to introduce students to potential educational and career pathways, providing them with valuable insight into future opportunities in advance of graduating high school,” said J. Michael Haynie, SU’s vice chancellor.