Race debated in college scholarships

By Abigail Keefe
March 30, 2006

When looking for financial aid, most white students do not feel that they are discriminated against, but there are some exceptions. Some colleges and universities have begun to open up scholarships, aid and programs previously available to only minority students now to white students.

Financial aid and special programs that were once allocated solely for minority students have begun accepting white or Asian- American students. However, this has raised some serious questions and sparked a debate among colleges and universities about the reasoning and logic behind these decisions.

The debate began back in 2003 with two landmark Supreme Court decisions involving the University of Michigan. The case raised many questions about the use of race in college admissions. However, the case focused mostly on programs for high school students and graduate fellowships.

Some examples include the State University of New York, which recently altered both a fellowship program and a scholarship that had previously only been offered to black, Hispanic or American-Indian students. Also, Southern Illinois University was forced to reconsider its eligibility requirements for three minority fellowships after the Department of Justice threatened it with a lawsuit.

Most colleges and universities have argued that they are making these changes to reflect diversity on their campuses. Institutions are increasingly turning away from using classifications such as “minority” and looking for ways to create a student body that reflects all races and ethnicities.

“We want to be in the position of supporting programs that also support the inclusion of all racial or ethnic backgrounds,” Roger B. Clegg said, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Clegg is the general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, a group that advocates for colleges and universities to abandon using race as an eligibility criteria.

Colleges and universities have also argued that singling out minorities is too narrow a classification for financial aid. Many claim they have expanded certain programs to encompass any individuals who need financial aid or who are economically underprivileged. An example of this is the University of Delaware, which altered some of its previously minority-only programs.They are now available to any student who is the first member of their family to attend college and who is economically in need of assistance based on federal financial aid requirements.

“I think it would be difficult for many schools to do this because if certain organizations want money to go specifically to minority students, then a college cannot change that,” Charlie Spencer, the director of admissions, said.

Spencer also said, “I think this practice will be difficult, if not impossible, with auditing from the government.”

It is unclear right now whether other schools will make similar changes. However, this debate has forced many schools to reconsider where the financial aid and assistance will go. Undoubtedly, in the diverse and multicultural world of modern colleges and universities, administrators and financial aid officials will have to deal with some tough questions.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@yahoogroups.com . The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Abigail Keefe

Abigail Keefe is a Cabrini College student studying communications, enjoying her time in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Abbie loves working for the school newspaper, the Loquitur, and is also passionate about everything that the communication field has to offer.

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