The end of race-conscious scholarships?

The Supreme Court’s decision ending affirmative action in college admissions has had a ripple effect on race-conscious scholarship programs, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The Supreme Court ruling said that race-conscious admissions processes violated Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or nationality in programs and activities receiving federal funding. The decision did not explicitly mention financial aid or grants, but fear of further litigation has led some institutions to end race-conscious scholarships as well. Experts fear that the end of minority scholarship programs aimed at reducing financial barriers for historically underrepresented students will ultimately narrow college access.

Related: The end of race-conscious admissions leaves more questions than answers >

Threats to race-conscious scholarships

Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling last summer, government officials in Missouri, Kentucky, and Wisconsin ordered public colleges and universities in their states to end consideration of race in scholarship programs. The University of Missouri system announced it would no longer offer or promote race-conscious scholarships. Wisconsin policymakers are exploring legislation that would eliminate race as a factor in most scholarships by the end of the academic year, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The University of Kentucky also announced it would stop considering race in scholarship programs. Western Illinois University, meanwhile, ended a scholarship for students of color and then reintroduced it, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Last month, some Ohio public universities announced they would eliminate race-based language in scholarship awards. Others, like the University of Toledo and Ohio University, paused the awarding of race-based diversity scholarships. The University of Toledo has suspended the distribution of around $500,000 in race-conscious scholarships, while Ohio University is reviewing $450,000 in scholarships to ensure they comply with guidance from Ohio officials, who said the Supreme Court ruling applied to scholarships.

Related: Black, Latine students remain underrepresented at state flagship universities >

Implications for students’ sense of belonging

Experts say the push to eliminate race-conscious scholarships is also driven by state anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) laws targeting identity-based student support programs. Public colleges in Florida and the University of Texas at Austin discontinued race-conscious scholarships and scholarships for undocumented students because they did not comply with their state DEI bans.

The elimination of these scholarships may worsen education attainment gaps in these states and result in state public colleges and universities becoming whiter and wealthier, C.J. Powell, director of advocacy for the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), tells the Chronicle. California’s ban on affirmative action in 1998—which was followed by a 40% drop in enrollment of Black and Latine students at at UCLA and UC Berkeley a year later—is a cautionary tale for these states, ​​Wil Del Pilar, senior vice president of the Education Trust, tells the Chronicle.

“We have to be really careful with the actions we take,” says Del Pilar, “because, many times, those institutions become places that Black students don’t see themselves at.”

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