Study finds minority scholarship preference is a myth

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A recently published national study claims to debunk “the race myth” that minority students receive more scholarship assistance than Caucasian students.

The study, conducted by Fastweb.com and FinAid.org, shows a disparity between Caucasian and minority students’ chances at receiving private scholarships, according to publisher Mark Kantrowitz. The study states that almost $1.9 billion was awarded to white students for the 2007-2008 school year, whereas the combined total of assistance for all minorities was slightly in excess of $1 billion.

Although the national figures show an advantage for Caucasian students over minorities for private scholarships, that data is not going to cause a stir at UT as the financial aid office said it does not take race into account when considering where to distribute student aid.

Tom Melecki, director of the Office of Student Financial Services said the University doesn’t have access to a student’s race when awarding financial aid and scholarship money.

“We could probably find out the races of our students, but we simply don’t have the time to even look into it,” Melecki said. “Most of our financial aid is based entirely on need.”

He said minority students from poorer neighborhoods may add to the school’s diversity, but there isn’t an effective way of measuring their merit.

“The rich kid has a head start over the poor kid,” Melecki said. “In the end, they both make it, but the poor kid had to work harder to get there.”

Biology junior Ken Nwankwo said he received no scholarship assistance for college, but he believes race should never be a factor for awarding scholarships.

“When bringing up race, I think it’s damned fair that I’m here, after my immigrant father worked hard for me to be here,” Nwankwo said. “I’m blessed.”

Liberal arts freshman Ethan Newman, a Caucasian student who received more than $3,000 from public and private scholarships, said he was aware of the perception that minority students have an advantage in getting scholarships.

“I did already have a feeling about the truth [of the figures] from the beginning, but I still had this stigma,” Newman said. “I still felt like a disadvantage might be there.”

He said race should eventually not count in scholarship decisions.

“I’m not bitter but [other Caucasians] are. They’re angry they didn’t get anything,” Newman said. “They feel they need to be angry at something, and the race issue may be it.”

According to the study, “Whites Only” scholarships are sometimes created, because Caucasians reported that they feel at some sort of disadvantage compared to minorities. These types of scholarships tend to be short-lived.

Melecki said that even if an organization wanted to offer a racially selective scholarship through UT, his department would decline the offer.