New policy prohibits race-only scholarships

By Mark McGowan

Minorities who find themselves without cash for school because of a new Bush administration policy might find the answer in need-based scholarships.

Education Department Head Lamar Alexander announced Tuesday that awarding scholarships based solely on race is now prohibited—something colleges practiced for years to attract minority students.

Jerry Augsburger, Student Financial Aid director, said his office won’t feel much impact because it doesn’t award any scholarships with race as the only factor. Financial Aid distributes monetary awards on a “totally colorblind” basis, he said.

Although, he said, ethnicity might play into other scholarship decisions in other departments, such as Admissions, which hands out tuition waivers for minorities.

Still, Augsburger isn’t pleased to hear the news.

“This thing has been bubbling along for months. I had thought it was resolved, but the folks in Washington muddied up the water,” he said. “It’s certainly not a step forward.”

The ban will “fly in the face” of NIU’s goals of increasing minority enrollments and promoting cultural diversity, he added.

However, while Augsburger admits the edict from the nation’s capitol probably will discourage more minorities from attending college, he said many can get assistance through need-based awards.

“The unfortunate truth is that minority students are most likely to come from low-income, poverty-level families,” he said, thereby qualifying them for need-based awards, he said.

Augsburger, however, is waiting for the U.S. Department of Education to release policy specifics before passing serious judgment.

But he expects schools will start “weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth” when the policy comes down. “From my experience, most colleges are doing their best to increase minority enrollment.”

Associate Admissions Director Robert Burk was unavailable for comment.