Racial Discrepancy in Scholarship Awards

I write this report because I am truly concerned about the current education system in United States of America.  I am concerned about the quality, and quantity, of financial resources disenfranchised students receive from universities, and private entities. I write this report because I believe to have the potential to assist the University of San Francisco, and other universities, in building a foundation where vulnerable and underprivileged students, of any racial group, are given a fair chance to receive appropriate funding to finance their education.  I hope to convince USF administrators and executives that students classified as Black or African-American suffer more financially than any other racial group enrolled in a university.  Therefore, making Black students the most susceptible racial group to withdraw student loans. 

Students who classify themselves as African-American or Black receive a disproportionate amount of scholarship awards.  A report written by Mark Kantrowitz, in 2011, provides evidence of financial discrimination from American universities against certain minority groups.  Kantrowitz presented multiple graphs to give a better visual of academic institutions practicing racial discrimination.  Overall, Black students comprised of 14% of the student population in American universities in 2011, while Caucasians made up 61% of the student population (Hispanics and Asians were 14.1% and 5.9%, respectively). (finaid.org).

Merit-based grants are given to students who meet or surpass academic standards. Students who receive these financial awards are primarily students with higher grade point average (gpa) scores, superb athletic ability, or excelling artistic vision.  According to Kantrowitz, Black and Hispanic students were only 9.3% and 7.7% of the grant recipients, respectively, even though each racial group represented 14% of the student population.  Meanwhile, Caucasian students were more than 75% of merit-based scholarship recipients despite only being 61% of the student population in 2011. 

For public schools, Kantrowitz stated Caucasian students were 73.1% of the award recipients despite only being 62.7% of public school population.  Black and brown students were each 13% of the public school population, but were only 11.4% and 7.8% of the merit-based grant recipients, respectively.  Private universities awarded merit-based scholarships to Black students a bit more proportionally.  Blacks students made up 24.7% of the private school population in America, and were 25.3% of the merit-based recipients. Their White counterparts were 51.2% of the  private school recipients while accounting for 46.5% of the student population. An argument can be presented to argue that the high rate of Black merit-based scholarship recipients may be comprised of HBCU students, such as Spelman College, Howard University, Morehouse College, and Florida A&M University. And, unfortunately, a large proportion of these black recipients might have received these awards based on athletic ability rather than their intellectual capabilities.  

Black high school students as a group attain the worst gpa and nationwide test scores in the country according to The Nation’s Report Card, a government institution dedicated to collecting educational data in the United States. (2009).  This performance will prompt Black students, as a group, will be less likely to receive merit-based grants due to their inability to compete with Asian and Caucasian students academically.  It is important for school administrators and executives to understand the determinants that cause Black students to earn the lowest grade point average in the country.  An independent organization should be developed to retentively study and unveil the reasons Black students maintain the lowest grade point average in America.  

According to Kaiser Family Foundation, Black Americans were the most impoverished racial group in 2016, with 22% being classified as poor; only 9% of Caucasians were considered to be in the same economic class. (KFF, 2016).  An argument can then be constructed to state Black students, therefore, are the most impoverished group of students in America. Need-based scholarships are grants appropriated to underprivileged students from disenfranchised homes. The concept of the “gpa” is less considered for the distribution of these particular awards compared to merit-based scholarships.  

According to Kantrowitz’s research, Blacks are 14% of the university student population, but only received 11.2% of the funding and were only 12.1% of the recipients for Need-Based scholarships. Meanwhile, Hispanics were 19.5% of the recipients and receive over 13% of the need-based funding. (Kantrowitz, 2011).  Although Hispanics were 14.1% of the student population, their award packages were much greater than Black students for Need-Based scholarships.  I am curious to determine the factors leading Hispanics to receive a generous percentage of need-based awards when Black students financially need scholarship funding the most based on their poverty level.

If Black students stem from the poorest racial group in America, why did 17.3% of Hispanics receive need-based awards, while only 10.8% of Black students received the same need-based awards?  Focusing on public schools alone, the numbers are even worst for Black students. Hispanics and Blacks are 13.7% and 13.1% of the student population, respectively. The distribution of need-based awards should at least then presume itself to be equally distributed amongst the two groups, but they are not; latinos made up 24.6% of need-based recipients and received 18.7% of the contributions, while Black students made up only 12.6% of the public school need-based recipients and 13% of the contributions.  

The graduate and professional student rates were no different, and this dawns on me the most, since I am now attached to this subgroup. Black graduate students were 11.7% of this student population and only represented 9.3% of all scholarship recipients.  Every other race presented in Kantrowitz’s study, had recipient percentages greater than their student population percentage. In this case, not even Black ADULT students received an appropriate percentage of all scholarship awards. 

This statement does not debunk my appreciation for being accepted as a Don at USF, but it does bring a reality to the disadvantages circumventing other Black students.  I believe my generation in the United States is currently withering the storm of withdrawing more student loans than any other generation, and most American people have yet to realize the devastating consequences of American youth withdrawing loans at record-breaking amounts.  At this rate, Black students will experience more repercussions regarding student loans.  According to Wisconsin Hope Lab, in 2011, more than 50% of Black students accepted loans.  No other racial group was as dependent on students loans.  In fact, Black students were the only racial group where majority of their population accepted student loans (52.3%). (Wisconsin Hope Lab).  I now recognize this deficiency, and eager to develop programs that can relieve the issue of academic inequity.   

After reading Ebony and Ivy, by Craig Steven Wilder, I learned that higher education in the United States was first experienced by the rich and privileged.  Ivy League campuses, such as Harvard and Yale, were populated with young White students parented by slave-owners, merchants, and religious hierarchies.  Given my family background, I recognize the reasonings to my financial struggle to pursue a graduate degree.  With a father as a truck driver, and a mother as a customer service representative, a master’s program is not ideally situated for me to afford.  It is economically set-up for students whose parents are financially well-off or well-connected (contain personal relationships with school executives or administrators).  Anyone outside this privileged circle will be subjected to accept student loans to afford higher education.  “Four years after earning a bachelor’s degree, black graduates in the 2008 cohort held an excess of $24,720 in student loan debt than white graduates ($52,726 versus $28,006), on average.” (Brookings, 2016).  

I will be studying in the Urban and Public Affairs program at the University of San Francisco until May 2020.  I am specifically interested in studying education policy, economic labor policy, and housing policy.  I am determined to resolve the issues of Black students receiving a disproportionate amount of scholarship awards. 

While enrolled at USF, I can initiated research on the financial challenges confronting Black students on campus.  I can develop evidence-based reports regarding the financial sustainability of the Black student.  I am curious to know if other African descended students have similar experiences with lacking financial assistance from academic institutions.  I hope to associate myself with Team BASE, an organization determined to uplift the academic experience of Black students on campus. I look forward to relieving all students from accumulating high student loan debt.

Curiosity is necessary to resolve oppression and inequality.  Once the public is concerned about a particular issue, policy reform can take place. DEMOS, a research organization, stated 17.5% of wealth is lost over time due to student loans during a lifetime. (Demos, 2009).  If the public, especially the black and brown population, does not formulate curiosity towards student loans, they will experience a racial wealth gap steadily widening due to the lack of institutional assistance.  Educated Black Americans will lose almost 1/5 of their wealth overtime because of student loans. This can impede with owning a business; providing children an optimal education; and socioeconomic conglomeration in Black communities.  I may personally experience daunting repercussions of student loan debt, as I may exceed a $100,000 (after interest) containing a bachelor’s degree, and striving for a Master’s degree.  

Between 2017-18, I applied for $40,000 worth of scholarship awards. Out of that number, I only received $500, which in part was due to my personal connection with my uncle, who referred me to the selection committee of the Los Angeles Association Black Personnel (LAABP).  Perhaps personal connections is one of the primary reasons White students receive most of the scholarship awards from American universities.

I hope to encourage my school’s committee to recognize my persistency and passion to change the world in many ways.  I hope they will come to a reasonable conclusion to relieve my stress of affording graduate school by increasing my current scholarship award package.  I know I am worth more than my current package.  More importantly, I hope to relieve future generations of having to borrow such an enormous amount of student loans. With two dark-skinned and underprivileged nephews, ages 3 and 5, I refuse to accept their fate of dealing with academic racism.   


Kaiser Family Foundation. Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2016.  https://kaiserf.am/2i7ugbi  


NCES. Status and Trends in Education of Racial and Ethic Minorities. National Center for Education Statistics. 2008. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2010/2010015/indicator6_25.asp 

Goldrick-Rab, Sara. Houle, Jason. Kelchen, Robert. The Color of Student Debt: Implecations of Federal Student Loan Program Reform for Black Students and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Wisconsin Hope Lab. 2014. https://news.education.wisc.edu/docs/WebDispenser/news-connections-pdf/thecolorofstudentdebt-draft.pdf?sfvrsn=4 

Kantrowitz, Mark. The Distribution of Scholarships and Grants by Race. FinAid. 2011. http://www.finaid.org/scholarships/20110902racescholarships.pdf 

Demos. The Debt-for-Diploma System. Demos. 2013. http://www.demos.org/publication/ending-debt-diploma-system 

Braga, Brenda. Racial and Ethic Differences in Family Student Loan Debt. Urban Institute. 2016. https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/82896/2000876-Racial-and-Ethnic-Differences-in-Family-Student-Loan-Debt.pdf 

Li, Jing. Scott-Clayton, Judith. Black-white Disparity in Student Loan Debt more than Triples after Graduation. Brookings. 2016. https://www.brookings.edu/research/black-white-disparity-in-student-loan-debt-more-than-triples-after-graduation/ 

How to Win a Merit Scholarship. FinAid. 2018. http://www.finaid.org/scholarships/winning.phtml 

Race/Ethnicity: Grade Point Average. The National Report Card. 2009. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/hsts_2009/race_gpa.aspx?tab_id=tab2&subtab_id=Tab_1