Study Shows Minorities Less Likely to Win Grants, Scholarships

(Comstock)

A short paper recently released by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org, is shaking up the discussion of race and financial aid — specifically, Kantrowitz writes that white students are disproportionately more likely to receive financial aid than their minority counterparts.  Kantrowitz’s intro reads as follows:

This paper presents data concerning the distribution of grants and scholarships by race. It debunks the race myth, which claims that minority students receive more than their fair share of scholarships. The reality is that minority students are less likely to win private scholarships or receive merit-based institutional grants than Caucasian students. Among undergraduate students enrolled full-time/full-year in Bachelor’s degree programs at four-year colleges and universities, minority students represent about a third of applicants but slightly more than a quarter of private scholarship recipients. Caucasian students receive more than three-quarters (76%) of all institutional merit-based scholarship and grant funding, even though they represent less than two-thirds (62%) of the student population. Caucasian students are 40% more likely to win private scholarships than minority students.

The whole concept is strikingly against conventional wisdom – in fact, the widespread belief that most grants and scholarships are reserved for women and minorities has led to controversial “white scholarships,” a kind of reverse affirmative action.  In attempting to understand why the numbers stand as they do, Kantrowitz postulates that the creators of scholarships look for recipients like themselves.  As an example, minorities are less likely to compete in sports like swimming, and downhill skiing, while many scholarships are geared towards these pursuits. Kantrowitz writes:

These statistics demonstrate that, as a whole, private sector scholarship programs tend to perpetuate historical inequities in the distribution of scholarships according to race. This does not appear to be due to deliberate discrimination, but rather as a natural result of the personal interests of the scholarship sponsors.

The Hermitage does a fine and entertaining job of shooting down refutations to Kantrowitz’s paper – check it out.


Randall Hoven

I don't think the myth was that minorities receive more than their fair share of MERIT-based scholarships, just more financial aid. Total financial aid does not appear to be addressed in this study. The study "busts" a myth by strawman fallacy: describing the "myth" in a false, easily bustable, way.

Here's what such a study should have done: count financial aid per student, for whites and African-Americans, or proportion of each group receiving financial aid (merit or otherwise). (Could also do for other minority groups, but Asians should not be included with African-Americans, since I suspect the statistics would be radically different.)

In comparing merit-based scholarships, it would be nice to normalize for SAT/ACT scores and HS GPA and class rank when making such comparison.

RGJ

".....but Asians should not be included with African-Americans, since I suspect the statistics would be radically different."

Science has changed since I was in school.

Kayla

A lot of scholarships require a written essay. Perhaps the white students are better writers? (Or have a better education in writing.) Just an idea.

Amir

I suggest somebody goes after NSF grants to professors to see what's going on there!

v

Amazing how all these gaps disappear after controlling for IQ.

For something that may or may not "exist," it has a lot of explanatory power.

Alex

Or...it could be the case that merit scholarships are being determined on...merit.

JohnJ

Randall is right. Minorities receive fewer "merit-based" scholarships because they get so many other kinds of scholarships and grants that they do not pursue the merit-based ones with of students for whom it is their only option. Minorities put more effort into pursuing other kinds of scholarships, leaving them with less time to put effort into "merit-based" scholarships.

QCIC

This just in....people from different races differ in the likelihood they will have the "merit" for "merit-based scholarships".

As a specific example...I do not know if you are aware, but African Americans spent much of the last century in slavery. Thus they are still disproportionately members of the lower socioeconomic orders. Thus their children are generally the recipients of worse education and come from home environments less likely to produce "merit".

When I was at the university in the late 90s there were a lot of minority students there who didn't really belong there (I worked at the tutoring center a lot). I am talking people who I would have thought could barely graduate from high school. What they were doing at the university was unclear to me, but they certainly wouldn't have been there if they were white. Different standards for admission had to have been used.

Not that they couldn't have been perfectly acceptable students if they had been raised better, or had gone to better schools, but they had not.

Trying to nibble at the edges of these racial problems is ridiculous when African American household income is approximately 65% that of whites. It just swamps the rest of the data and drives everything.

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james jones

What century was that again???

David Ciani

I was gonna say, Jim Crow and institutional discrimination were bad but they aren't slavery... until I realized that the commenter must be a time traveler from the 20th century....

Eric M. Jones

And a guys I knew in LA, whose name was Smith, changed his name to Jimenez for the sole purpose of getting a minority promotion in the city government.

AC

"Sponsor, who felt swimming saved his life, supports other swimmers."

Okay, nothing wrong here.

"Swimming scholarships disproportionately favor white people."

Okay people, start swimming. You can't tell a sponsor how to benevolently give away his money, so that leaves the demand side of the equation.

LL

@QCIC
"As a specific example…I do not know if you are aware, but African Americans spent much of the last century in slavery."
---------------------------
Slavery was abolished in 1865, the 19th century. It I'd currently the 21st century.

Grog

I'm a little confused by this statement:
"Among undergraduate students enrolled full-time/full-year in Bachelor’s degree programs at four-year colleges and universities, minority students represent about a third of applicants but slightly more than a quarter of private scholarship recipients."

The data referenced in the article doesn't identify the representation of a third of applicants, rather it appears to identify that they represent a third of the student population. The paper also jumps back and forth between scholarships awarded and total awarded funds in an incoherent manner.

The hermitage seems to be shooting down similar refutations, but for a different paper focused on NIH research grants. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6045/1015.full

Leo Godin

Interesting study. The 40% number is misleading, as it uses a total number instead of a representative number (doesn't account for the fact that there are more whites in college than minorities.) I believe that number should be more like 8% and represent the chance of an individual student's chances of receiving a private scholarship.

the interesting part of the paper is the charts on total grants, where the average white student receives more average dollars in total grants than minorities. That is a surprise to me as I thought minorities received more in grants than whites. The chart they use includes employee reimbursement. I'd like to see the numbers with and without it.

rgj

I have rarely read a more breathlessly biased intro to a paper than that. Two of the first three pages document the tiny handful of fleeting "whites only" scholarships -- nothing but an emotive irrelevance in terms of the data. What is the ratio of "whites-only" scholarships to various minority-based ones -- 1000-1? Didn't see that number in there. Probably would have killed the tabloid effect if you led with that, huh?

Merit-based scholarships are....merit-based scholarships. This paper counsels changing more of them to need-based scholarships. Just in case, you know, you had missed the author's social engineering bias. I'm sure that if that statistical pendulum somehow twitches slightly to the minorities proportional advantage, this author will be the first to demand whites-only scholarships to equal things out, right? That was sarcasm.

Our society needs to get color blind, it is time. We have a black president. Get over the whole frantic search for inequality. This guy twists himself in a statistical pretzel to succeed in race baiting. How about we actually -- wait for it -- treat everyone EQUAL?

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CJC

Aren't the percentages misleading when the Caucasian students are measured against the student population of Caucasians and not all the Caucasian applicants? (i.e. unlike the percentage of minority students which is based off of all minority applicants) If the Caucasian percentage was based off of ALL applicants (which is a larger population size) then that percentage would be less and you wouldn't see as great of a difference. I may be wrong here but that seems inconsistent to me.

- "Among undergraduate students enrolled full-time/full-year in Bachelor’s degree programs at four-year colleges and universities, minority students represent about a third of APPLICANTS but slightly more than a quarter of private scholarship recipients. Caucasian students receive more than three-quarters (76%) of all institutional merit-based scholarship and grant funding, even though they represent less than two-thirds (62%) of the STUDENT POPULATION."

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MalcomG

That os very dissapointing, and you have the same name as one of my teachers.

DM

Speaking of emotive and breathless Rgj, how many scholarships you think of as "minority-based" are in fact open to *disadvantaged* students of any race, hmm?

RGJ

I don't know how many scholarships are open to all disadvantaged applicants ("needs-based"), I would guess quite a lot.

I believe my statement was that for every "whites-only" scholarship there are probably 1000 "minority-only" scholarships, as opposed to "needs-based". Think I'm wrong?

Personally, I think I'd boycott any racist institution or corporation that tied race or skin color of any hue to a scholarship. Anyone with me?