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As “Good Old Days” by Macklemore, featuring Ke$ha, plays for the seemingly 10th time while scrolling on your TikTok For You page, the colors and names on the sweatshirts of Stuyvesant High School’s graduating class of 2023 become almost repetitive. However, these students are far from ordinary, as maroon Harvard, navy Yale, and other elite college sweatshirts dominate the college commitment videos. All Stuyvesant students know the blood, sweat, and tears that were shed to get to this point; most of us think that five hours of sleep is a reasonable amount of time. Yet, under Stuyvesant and other high schools’ college commitment TikToks, comments of “Feeder school,” “Daddy’s money,” and “How much is their tuition??” are seen repeatedly. The term “feeder school” has rapidly grown in popularity as a way to point out the privilege that enables students to attend prestigious schools. Though the use of the word can be true—as Stuyvesant High School is a public feeder school—the context in which the label is being used often spreads misinformed stereotypes that devalue the efforts of students.
According to Oxford Languages, a feeder school is a school from which many or most students progress to a particular higher-level educational institution. Though the noun is usually used when discussing private schools being feeder schools for Ivy League universities, it can apply to public schools, too. Some of the comments under @stuyseniorcaucus college commitment TikToks are “In the most affluent county in America” and “Stuy is a feeder school lmao, it’s also predominantly upper-class white and Asian as those are the communities that can pay for the SHSAT exam prep.” The caption of the TikTok was, “Waiting for the feeder school comments (we’re a public [high school]),” consequently prompting arguments in the comments regarding whether public schools can be feeder schools. These comments reflect the controversy surrounding the SHSAT examination—which has underwent intense discussion in recent years as Mayor Bill de Blasio fought to remove it—and the misinformation surrounding the student body of Stuyvesant that simultaneously feeds into racist stereotypes. Hence, when discussing feeder schools, the distinction between public and private feeder schools is noteworthy, especially in the case of Stuyvesant High School.
Trinity School in New York is often regarded as the top feeder high school in the country. Approximately 40 percent of its students are admitted into Ivy League universities, and the tuition for grades 9-12 is $58,495. When thinking of the term “feeder school,” most people think of these kinds of schools located in the Upper West Side, which have a median household income of $143,644, over $70,000 more than the New York City median income of $70,633. These students have college guidance tutors, supplement editors, and donations available to get them into elite universities, hence the use of the term “daddy’s money,” implying that an individual’s familial wealth brought them success. Furthermore, the majority of Trinity’s students are white, contributing to the privilege they experience in the world. Trinity clearly offers abundant help and connections to its students that grant them special access to the world of the Ivy League, making it an obvious feeder school. Compared to Stuyvesant, however, the circumstances for a student’s success are much different.
Stuyvesant High School is a public high school located in Tribeca, New York, and is currently ranked as the third top high school in New York City; historically, it has often been ranked first. In Tribeca, often known as the wealthiest neighborhood in the United States, the median household income is $226,551, about $150,000 more than the median income in New York City. However, these numbers do not reflect the wealth of all Stuyvesant students: 48 percent of Stuyvesant students qualify for free or reduced school lunches, and most do not live in Tribeca. This makes Stuyvesant unlike other feeder schools, as the success of the students is not granted by money. The majority of Stuyvesant students are Asian and have immigrant parents who came to the United States with close to nothing and built businesses from the ground up to provide a better future for their families. Despite this, specialized high schools are still characterized by the stereotype that the students who are accepted have wealthy Asian parents that push them into tutoring from an early age, explaining the “predominantly upper-class white and Asian as those are the communities that can pay for the SHSAT exam prep” comment. Not only does this stereotype spread misinformation regarding the demographics of the student body, but it also fuels the racist Asian “tiger parents” stereotype and the stereotype that most Asians are wealthy. Since roughly one in three students at Stuyvesant come from low-income neighborhoods, it is safe to say that the reason for their acceptance into Stuyvesant and academic success cannot be solely attributed to money, a considerable difference from private feeder schools. Furthermore, since many Stuyvesant students are second-generation students whose parents did not attend distinguished universities, their success cannot be attributed to purely legacy admissions either, another prominent difference.
However, Stuyvesant students are still privileged in the college admissions process for attending a specialized high school. Stuyvesant has numerous hard-working college counselors, college fairs, and a dedicated alumni association, all of which increase a student’s chance of getting into their top university. Furthermore, Stuyvesant offers a wide variety of extracurriculars and classes that students can take to improve their application and pursue their interests, a value that not all schools cater to. Hence, it is important to acknowledge the privilege that Stuyvesant still holds, despite it being a public school. Nevertheless, the usage of the phrase “feeder school” to express that the only reason Stuyvesant students are going to top colleges tosses all of our effort into the trash.
It should not be shameful that Stuyvesant is a feeder school, since we are indeed a college preparatory school that sends numerous students off to prestigious universities every year. Rather, it is the context in which the term is being used, as some individuals undermine the accomplishments of students and use it as an excuse to spread racist ideology. To the graduating class of 2023 and every future graduating class that will almost inevitably receive the same comments, be proud of that “feeder school” label and laugh at that “daddy’s money” comment—you deserve it.