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Study Shows White Kids Are Getting More Scholarships Than Everyone Else

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If you've ever known more than a handful of white students figuring out how to pay for college, you might have heard the claim: there aren't as many grants and scholarships for white students as minorities.

Groups like the Former Majority Association for Equality and United Caucasian College Fund were founded on this claim. There are scholarships at UCLA and UC Berkeley specifically for whites.

Financial aid guru Mark Kantrowitz — the guy behind FinAid and Fastweb — had heard it enough times that he finally he decided to crunch the numbers. Kantrowitz looked at where grant and scholarship money was going and compared that to the undergraduate population at 4-year colleges and universities as a whole. His report debunked the claim, and he found out that white students are actually 40 percent more likely to get scholarship grants than minority students.

"There’s nothing wrong with having a scholarship that’s restricted to students of a particular race," Kantrowitz told California Watch. "But if you say there are no scholarships that only white people can win, then it’s not correct."

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He found that whites were more likely to receive scholarships, even after adjusting for differences in financial need, high school GPA or college GPA.

California Watch drilled into the data some more and found that white students in California also fare better than minorities, although to a lesser degree than the national average:

Caucasians represent 44 percent of private scholarship recipients in California but only 41 percent of the undergraduate student population. Minority students, by contrast, represent 55 percent of scholarship recipients and 58 percent of undergraduates.

Kantrowitz concludes that scholarship money tends to perpetuate historical inequities, but he says it's usually not because of outright discrimination (as it is for the scholarships listed above). Many private scholarships are awarded to students with a particular interest and those interests tend to skew white. Although African-American students might be likely to pursue scholarships in basketball, track & field, handball and football, that's going to be outweighed by all the scholarships available in equestrian, water and winter sports, Kantrowitz says. He writes:

The sponsors of rodeo scholarships aren't motivated by a desire to indirectly discriminate against minority students; they just like to promote rodeo. But the net result is that private scholarships as a whole disproportionately select for Caucasian students. Similarly, golf, archery, cycling, weight lifting and wrestling scholarships tend to implicitly select for Caucasian students.