Erica Perez, California Watch, September 9, 2011
A national report released this week by financial aid guru Mark Kantrowitz finds minority students are less likely to win private scholarships or receive merit-based institutional grants than Caucasian students–a pattern that also holds true in California.
The analysis, based on 2003-04 and 2007-08 data for hundreds of thousands of students from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, found that nationally, Caucasian students are 40 percent more likely to win private scholarships than minority students.
Kantrowitz, who publishes the popular college financial aid websites FinAid and Fastweb and does consulting in computer science, artificial intelligence, and statistical and policy analysis, said he decided to embark on the study because he read a news story that repeated a claim he hears often: White students don’t get their fair share of scholarships.
WFAA-TV in Dallas reported in June that a new nonprofit group, the Former Majority Association for Equality, awards scholarships for whites only. Colby Bohannan, one of the group’s founders, told WFAA that “it just got really frustrating when every other scholarship you happen to find online, you need not apply to based on your ethnicity or gender.”
“It struck me that he didn’t have any evidence for that statement, and it was an interesting question,” Kantrowitz said in an interview. He asked the question of the data and found the answer.
“I would say that the race myth is busted,” he said. “There is no evidence to support statements that minority students get more than their fair share of scholarships. If anything, Caucasian students receive more than their fair share … by a significant margin.”
Kantrowitz’s study focused most closely on private scholarships offered by outside groups and merit-based or non-need-based scholarships offered by colleges and universities themselves. He found that nationally, Caucasian students still were more likely to win private scholarships than African American, Latino or Asian students, even after adjusting for differences in financial need, high school GPA or college GPA.
Among low-income students, 7 percent of white students received private scholarships, compared with 5 percent of minority students. Among students with high school GPAs of 3.5 or better, 11 percent of white students received private scholarships, compared with 8 percent of minorities.
White students also were more likely to receive institutional merit-based grants, Kantrowitz found. Universities often use these scholarships as recruiting tools to woo academically attractive students who have no demonstrated financial need.
Kantrowitz said he doesn’t see private scholarships as deliberately discriminatory. Most scholarships do not use racial preferences at all, he said. But many private scholarships tend to “perpetuate historical inequities in the distribution of scholarships according to race,” he wrote.
[Editor’s Note: View the full report here.]