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.

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  1. Randall Hoven says:

    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.

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    • RGJ says:

      “…..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.

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    • Robyn Ann Goldstein says:

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      • Neil (SM) says:

        @Robyn Ann Goldstein: say what!?

        @Randall Hoven: It looks to me like they did account for GPA and SAT scores.

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  2. Kayla says:

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    • robyn ann goldstein says:

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    • EGJ says:

      On the contrary, the vast majority of “merit” scholarships given at the 10,000 student state school where I work are given out automatically. The scholarships are awarded to a all incoming freshmen based on HS grades, with extra money for students who take a sufficient number of science and math classes. No application is required. Students are dropped if their GPA falls below a certain level. Instead of funding my institution directly (we get less that 8% from the state) we compete for students with these scholarships, a portion of which the student keeps even if they attend a private institution. Hence the tuition and population at my “public” institution begins to converge to that of the privates. The merit scholarships subsidize middle and upper class B students who have attended good high schools.

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  3. Amir says:

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

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  4. v says:

    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.

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    • robyn ann goldstein says:

      Well putt.

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    • D. Morrings says:

      IQ may or may not exist, but it’s a well-known fact that white students tend to score higher on IQ tests. They aren’t testing intelligence, they’re testing knowledge — and the tests are put together in such a way to favor white students.

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  5. Alex says:

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

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    • Mike B says:

      I’d like to see the results for controlling for income or other socio-economic factors. Over the last decade or so I have become increasingly convinced that class now matters much more than race. Law enforcement interactions aside, people today are either educated or not, have money in the bank or not or live in a “good school district” or don’t. Therefore the disparity isn’t based on skin color, its based on the color of green in one’s wallet.

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  6. JohnJ says:

    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.

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  7. QCIC says:

    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 says:

      What century was that again???

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      • David Ciani says:

        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….

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      • John B says:

        He got the century wrong…but don’t hold that against him.

        Give him a “merit” based scholarship anyway.

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    • Neil (SM) says:

      Two problems with your theory:

      1. The study looked at “merit-based institutional grants” and private scholarships in general. Not just merit-based scholarships.

      2. The study compared students with similar qualifications including GPA, standardized tests, etc.

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      • robyn ann goldstein says:

        It is only a problem if you don’t treat the individual as a whole person. If you or I (or individuals like us) were to apply for the same grant or scholarship and you got it and I did not (if our qualifications are similar or sufficiently (relatively the same that either one of us could get it) i.e., the only indivdiual differences between us is you are a boy and I am a girl and over and over again, the boy gets it and the girl does not, I would wonder about why (motivationally speaking), the boys are awarded the grants and the girls are not. You are thinking in terms of things and not in terms of individual experience. Look at table in the back of the Protestant Ethic and the fact that Weber seemed to average in the wrong direction. It was not wrong at all considering his adoption of the individual as the unit of analysis. And ps. I am not criticising your approach to the study of such phenomena- only that you are using it here when it should not be.

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    • robyn ann goldstein says:

      Dear QCIC;

      You may want to look up the name Carl Nolden on-line. He was and still is an individual whom I am proud to call a student of mine. He was not given an opportunity to speak out. As for the kind of education he received. The system was stacked against his succeeding, but he succeeded despite it. His mom came to school daily to fight on his’ behalf. I had a few other students back then who had a grandparent or parent who cared enough to allow their kids to flower. What happened to them, I do not know. One switched schools. Another said that he wanted to be a lawyer. And a third? That student would dance on top of the desks to get a bit of attention. He wore bright colored sweaters to class. Had a grandmother, I was told, who cared for him. One parent had died and the other in jail, I was told too. So I do not know whatever happened to him. But I do think about him often and pray that he made it out of the jam he was in through no fault of his own.

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  8. Eric M. Jones says:

    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.

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