U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York
January 17, 2024
New York State’s Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) funds free summer and academic-year programs via New York colleges, universities, and medical schools for 7-12 graders interested in science, technology, and related fields at higher education institutions around the state. The STEP law and accompanying regulations were enacted in 1985 to “assist eligible students in acquiring the skills, attitudes and abilities necessary to pursue professional or pre-professional study in post- secondary degree programs in scientific, technical and health-related fields.” The statute defines “eligible students” as “secondary school students who are either economically disadvantaged or minorities historically underrepresented” in the target fields and state regulations limit eligibility to applicants who are black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Alaskan Native even if such applicants do not meet the economic status eligibility criterion; White and Asian students must show that they are “economically disadvantaged” in order to be considered.
In January 2024, Equal Protection Project and Pacific Legal Foundation brought a legal action in U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York on behalf of Yiatin Chu, CACAGNY, Inclusive Advocacy Group and Higher with Our Parent Engagement challenging the STEP Act on the grounds that the racially discriminatory nature of the program violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment via 42 U.S.C. § 1983.