Colleges revise scholarships to reflect race | Diversity insights
2 mins read

Colleges revise scholarships to reflect race | Diversity insights

Colleges revise scholarships to reflect race | Diversity insightsColleges revise scholarships to reflect race | Diversity insights
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya

Colleges across the country are revising or ending some financial aid and scholarship criteria in response to a 2023 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that banned race-based admissions.

“Our colleges and universities are at their best when they reflect the rich diversity of our nation,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a press release marking the anniversary of the court’s decision. “Last year, the Supreme Court reversed course on decades of precedent and sharply restricted a key tool that colleges have used to create vibrant, diverse campus communities and expand access to higher education for students of color, who too often face inequities in our education system. This decision was a blow to the fight for equal opportunity and a more just, equal country.”

Since the rulings were issued, nearly 50 colleges and universities have halted, modified or terminated racially motivated scholarships totaling at least $45 million.

Duke University, for example, recently ended a multiyear scholarship that covered tuition and housing for black undergraduate students, worth about $66,000 a year. The funds will be redirected to a new leadership program and need-based financial aid initiatives.

Similarly, the University of Iowa has revised the criteria for its Advantage Iowa Award, a program that distributes more than $9 million annually to support first-year students from historically marginalized communities. The change now allows white students, who were previously excluded, to also qualify for the award.

The University of Missouri system is revising eligibility criteria for $17.2 million in scholarships, both institutional and through donor funding, originally earmarked for students of specific ethnic backgrounds. Critics say such scholarships disadvantage white students by favoring certain racial groups.

As universities navigate these changes, some experts are concerned about the potential impact on college access and institutional diversity. Financial aid, including scholarships, plays a key role in supporting students of color, who often face economic barriers to higher education. Advocates warn that replacing race-based scholarships with income or first-generation status could overlook persistent racial disparities in access to wealth and opportunity.

While universities are exploring alternative solutions to promote diversity, they must exercise caution to ensure compliance with changing legal interpretations.