By Angela Vega
In the final days of college application season, I came across an online forum called “The Race Card Project.” Inside was a candid submission titled “Other ethnicities get all the scholarships!”
Fitting, I thought. I followed the link to a brief paragraph written by a college student named Carissa Brown.
“I am a struggling white college student with no scholarships. Why? Because all the scholarships available seem to be exclusively for first generation Americans, or Hispanics, or African Americans, or anyone but me. It’s not my fault I’m white,’” Brown wrote.
The debate regarding grants and scholarships based on race is not a new one. In fact it comes up every year when high school seniors, like myself, face the brutally cold weather of college application season. Several times I’ve received words of pseudo encouragement from my classmates along the lines of “Good thing you’re an immigrant, you guys get all the benefits!”
Among the variety of responses garnered by Brown’s submission, several commenters shared similar feelings, some even accusing college admissions offices of reverse racism. The posters seemed to agree that affirmative action programs and scholarships based on race were ultimately unfair and guilty of putting under-qualified minorities above higher achieving white students.
But the statistics tell otherwise. According to research done by the publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.com, Mark Kantrowitz, minorities are actually less likely to receive college scholarships. While minority students receive only 28 percent of all scholarships, white students receive an overwhelming 72 percent. Despite making up less than 62 percent of the student population, white students received a disproportionate amount of 76 percent of merit-based scholarships and grant funding, conclusively showing the larger advantages white students have over students of color in terms of financial aid.
Upon reading this, I was confused. White students are exposed to a great majority of scholarships and advantages, yet are convinced they are systematically neglected and oppressed when minority students are seen succeeding. Suddenly, these sentiments of inequality and reverse racism started to leave the impression of entitlement instead.
Ultimately, however, students are not to blame for this common misconception. American institutions have quietly put forth an agenda of white privilege over the last two and a half decades, teaching entitlement.
“[But] as a whole, private sector scholarship programs tend to perpetuate historical inequities in the distribution of scholarships according to race. The net result is that private scholarships as a whole disproportionately select for Caucasian students,” Kantrowitz stated.
However even then, Kantrowitz points out that private scholarships are extremely competitive. The majority of students will ultimately not win a scholarship. Thus when students do not win scholarships or are ineligible for grants, they may express their disappointment with blame for racial or gender preferences and limitations, “implying that minority students would not otherwise qualify for a scholarship.”
This common sentiment among our youth speaks volumes about the power dynamics of our institutions. When minority students are seen succeeding and are awarded for their achievements through prestigious college acceptances and private scholarships, we are too quick to downplay their achievements as mere governmental aid for the color of their skin. We devalue and discount their hard work and efforts.
In reality, minority students catch the attention of college admissions offices not just by their race, gender, or financial situation, but by their real achievements and accomplishments, topped off with the dynamics of their provided cultures and backgrounds.
Minorities and students of color are dynamic and bold, with rich and bright cultures that make them stand out. But they also have talents, aptness, and dreams that cannot just be reduced to their race.