Syracuse University chancellor, Nancy Cantor, was recently criticized in The Chronicle of Higher Education for her efforts to geographically and socioeconomically diversify the university. A growing proportion of the university’s population has a lower-income and are of minority background, with the amount of minority students in this year’s incoming fall class reaching 33 percent from 18 percent in 2004, six percent above the national average. The number of low-income students has also grown to 28 percent in 2011 from 19 percent in 2004, according to FinAid, a non-profit analysis group. Grade point averages and SAT scores have remained stable since Cantor’s arrival in 2004. According to the university’s admission website, “For students entering the University in the fall semester of 2010, the average GPA was 3.6 and the middle 50 percent of SAT scores ranged from 1610-1870.” The article, titled Syracuse’s Slide, reported that the Chancellor’s efforts to remake the student population by moving to a more inclusive admission strategy of low-income students, have had negative effects on Syracuse University’s reputation, resulting in a drop in 2011 rankings by the U.S. News & World Report.
Students disagree. Jessica Santana ’11, back in Syracuse pursuing her master’s degree in information management, gained a broad worldview during her undergraduate career, meeting people from a variety of cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. She had the opportunity to travel abroad three times, traveling throughout Europe, spending a semester in Hong Kong and interning in Brazil with Deloitte, the largest professional services firm in the world, this past summer. She realizes none of this would have been possible if she’d stayed in Brooklyn. “As an undergrad, I was part of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). It was established to support disadvantaged, low-income, first generation students who would otherwise not go to college because of their financial circumstances. I would have never been able to break the cycle of poverty…to make an even greater contribution as a citizen of this state and country.” Santana was able to make greater contributions by being a leader both on campus and off campus, leaving a remarkable impression on students, faculty, and staff. Her commitment and work have been recognized through a number of prestigious awards including the Remembrance Scholarship, Woman of Distinction, The Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship and the Senior Vice President Award for Outstanding Senior Leadership.
“Giving people in socioeconomically disadvantaged positions the opportunity to get an education is not a handout. It is an investment. I have never received a hand out. I am at Syracuse University on more than just my academic merit. Everything I have accomplished has been with diligence, integrity and quality,” she continued. Aside from leadership, Jessica has demonstrated scholarship, graduating in May with a 3.5 grade point average. She is just one of the many success stories at the university. She encourages other Latino students who may see college as a distant dream instead of an attainable reality reminding them that leaders rise against all odds. “With hard work and determination, your dreams will realize. You are more than your ethnicity. You are a human first and as such, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Remember, it’s not what people say about you. It’s what you respond to.”
Multiple opportunities are available for financial assistance at Syracuse, with cost of attendance reaching $51,960 as reported by the institution’s website. The Our Time Has Come (OTHC) Scholarship is a campaign established in 1987 by the Office of Program Development at Syracuse University to provide endowed scholarships for African American and Latino undergraduate students. To date, there have been over 1000 scholarships worth over 2 million dollars awarded. This year, 47 scholarships were awarded to Latino and African-American undergraduates nominated by Syracuse faculty, staff, and students meeting academic and financial requirements. “The OTHC Scholarship gives students the opportunity to achieve their ultimate dream and get a Syracuse University degree,” says Angela Morales-Patterson, manager – alumni programs, Office of Program Development. “If we did not have these scholarships, many of those students would not have been able to complete their degrees,” she continued.
One of those scholars is Nephtaly Rivera, senior journalism student, who appreciates all the help he has received in the form of scholarships and grants to fund his education. “There are people out there who want to help you attain the goal of going to college,” he says, “Whether it be your counselors at your school, your family, and your friends. With a support system, anything can happen.”
“I often receive calls from the recipients, students who have been struggling financially and did not know how they would fund their education, and they are so appreciative of the scholarship. It makes me smile when I hear from them because they call to thank me and inquire about how they were chosen. Many are surprised to know they were nominated,” said Mrs. Morales-Patterson.