Viewpoint: Scholarships for blacks limit education options

Reubin Turner | Assistant City Editor
Reubin Turner | Assistant City Editor
By Reubin Turner
Assistant City Editor

With the advent of the new year, so commences (and in many cases, continues) the quest for high school seniors across the nation to be accepted into some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning.

Words like “waitlisted” and “deferred” probably don’t make for great table talk. In some extreme instances, it could result in disdainful looks and nervous breakdowns.

There are, however, some who have received those hard-earned and envied early acceptance letters. For those students, another journey has begun — the pursuit of scholarships.

This process for blacks can surprisingly be a double-edged sword, as those who opt not to go to a Historically Black College or University can quickly find themselves with a limited number of scholarships for which to apply, as many of the scholarships available to black students can only be received if the student goes to an affiliate HBCU institution.

Yes, friends, there exists a prejudice within a prejudice.
For decades, organizations like the United Negro College Fund have been a wonderful resource for many capable blacks wishing to further their education.

In the year 2005 alone, the UNCF gave more than $113 million to approximately 65,000 students.

In times where many blacks were denied both the opportunity and funds to attend prestigious institutions, organizations such as these were essential in propelling the black race forward.

But in a time where much of the black population chooses to pursue other avenues of higher education rather than the formally traditional method of going to an HBCU, organizations such as the UNCF and others should update their selection methods that disfavor black students who may opt not to go to such colleges and universities.

Some of the best college scholarships, which apply strictly to black students, are solely for students who plan to attend HBCUs. Scholarships such as the Tom Joyner Full Ride Scholars and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund offer great financial opportunities to interested applicants, but are only available to those seeking to attend an HBCU.

According to the American Youth Policy Forum 21, 21 percent of current black undergraduates attend HBCUs. While this is indeed a significant amount, that means roughly 80 percent of the remaining black population is not qualified for such aid. Any selection method that disqualifies that large of a percentage from its original target demographic is obviously outdated.

Furthermore, those that do opt to attend a private, prestigious university may need substantially more financial aid than those attending an HBCU.

Since these universities tend to be considerably more expensive than HBCUs, it would be shameful to think a student who was accepted into an institution such as Duke University, cannot go because of the lack of funds. These scholarships should have been available to him even though he decided not to attend an HBCU.

Its quite clear that the selection method could use an update, as it does not adequately address the needs of the larger black undergraduate population. In addition to serving as an asset to these students, organizations and institutions that give these scholarships would undoubtedly be investing into their future.

In most instances, individuals who have graduated from their respective intuition tend to remember those who played.

These organizations would stand to gain a considerable amount from students who attend institutions such as Harvard and Yale, in regards to the possibility of future potential financial support, and the number of contacts that individual can potentially bring to that organization.

This investment into the lives of students that decide to branch out into other institutions can become truly valuable to the organization in the future.

Although I’m not sure why many scholarship funds for black students are still only available to those who attend an HBCU, I can imagine one of the reasons is to encourage them to attend these universities in an effort to increase their attendance, which has for many years been steadily declining.

However, in most instances, giving a modest scholarship to a student will more than likely not give them a large enough incentive to apply to an HBCU. Even if it does, there are many other factors such as location, the reputation of the school and the financial cost of the school that influence the decision of the student, rather than being encouraged to do so solely to obtain a modest scholarship from an outside entity.

While I understand the position to an extent, the reasoning behind not extending the reach of students eligible to receive financial aid from black entities, this method, fortunately, is outdated. And if the organizations that grant such scholarships to students do not step into the 21st century and broaden their reach, they could face serious consequences and regrets in the future.

Reubin Turner is a junior economics major from Edmond, Okla. He is the assistant city editor for The Lariat.