Archive for the 'Student Grants' Category

UTC student pens scholarship advice book for students

Posted on Nov. 30th 2010 by Alexis

Zachary Freeman, an 18-year-old UTC student majoring in Business Finance, has published a book on how he won numerous grants and scholarships to help pay for his entire college education.

During his senior year of high school, Freeman desperately applied for hundreds of scholarships before enrolling at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He ended up winning $70,000 in grants and scholarships, which was more than enough to pay for all of his tuition, housing, textbooks, and food expenses for the next four years.

Even as a high school student Freeman had a knack for success: He owned his own clothing and sports memorabilia company before pursuing a university education, and by the time he enrolled at UTC he had won ten of the scholarships he applied for which were offered by companies, corporations, and local civic organizations. (Freeman has stated on his blog that approximately 52 percent of his education was funded from local organizations).

“People have this misconception that they have to be a perfect student to get scholarship money, when often it’s based more on community service than anything else,” explained Freeman, who is originally from Franklin, TN. “You’ll never get the money if you don’t at least apply, and most people don’t apply.”

The book and the blog – “Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid”

Zachary Freeman Free Money Please

Freeman’s 65-page book is packed full of worksheets, timelines, checklists, as well as advice for students who are looking to finance their entire education through grants and scholarships.

“I have never claimed to possess a secret, but simply the method and timeline that I highlight, along with worksheets, in my first published work,” he stated. “It’s not that there’s a secret, it’s just that there’s a method.”

Since the book was released in September it has launched to #4 on’s “Hot New Releases in Education” list, and has even received “public notoriety” from best selling authors like Dan Miller, as well as syndicated radio hosts.

“More than book sales, I have a desire to see my peers get through college without spending an arm and a leg,” he explained. “I will be completely debt-free through four years of college, and I know that with a bit of effort, other students around the United States, and specifically in the Chattanooga area can and will benefit from what I have to say.”

If you can’t afford to shell out the $15 for his book, Freeman also offers some great tips and advice for students applying for scholarships on his blog. For further reading, check out the following posts:

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Studying at a top university may be cheaper than you think

Posted on Aug. 21st 2010 by Alexis

Studying at a top university may not be as expensive as you think

Students who are strapped for cash could pay half the tuition costs at some of the top universities, such as Harvard, Princeton or Yale.

Every year the U.S. News & World Report publishes rankings of over 1,400 institutions, which include national universities, regional universities, regional colleges and liberal arts colleges. Ultimately, the annual report serves as a great starting point for future students who are interested in researching into graduation rates, the cost of tuition and financial aid. After researching over 1,400 colleges and universities in the country, U.S. News discovered that dozens of top colleges are now offering tuition discounts and financial aid so needy students can pay as little as $20,000 a year.

(Check out the U.S. News & World Report’s list for “Great Schools, Great Prices,” or click on any of the following links to view other rankings included in the annual report)

The institutions are ranked according to 16 different factors which include graduation rates, class size, faculty resources, selection of students, financial resources, “alumni satisfaction,” freshmen SAT scores and the ratio of professors to students. Resources for financial aid account for 10 percent of each ranking, as well as the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants. U.S. News also researches the average spending per student on instruction, student services and research. However, the amount spent on sports, dorms and hospitals is not included.

Even though the full cost of tuition at Yale University is approximately $53,000, nearly 54 percent of students who were eligible for financial aid paid $13,600 for the 2010-11 school year. The remaining 46 percent were from upper class families, because Yale charges each student according to his/her annual family income: Any student from a family earning less than $60,000 per year can become eligible for $50,000 in grants; however, a student from a family earning up to $200,000 a year can become eligible for scholarships so in tuition costs, he or she pays about 10 percent of the family income each year.

At Harvard, some students pay less than $15,000 a year, while at Princeton, nearly 60 percent of students are eligible for a 69 percent discount off the $52,000 full tuition cost.

Some “lesser-known” colleges have been offering scholarships to almost every student; for example, only 2 percent of the students at Ripon College in Wisconsin ended up paying the full cost of tuition ($35,000), while the remaining percentage paid at least half of the tuition cost, depending on their qualifications and family finances. Also, nearly 84 percent of the students received need-based grants, or were eligible for merit scholarships depending on their grades and/or talents.

According to U.S. News, the college with the lowest tuition cost after scholarships was the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, where out-of-state students paid an average of $8,000 annually.

Also, at Aquinas College in Michigan, over 80 percent of students paid a little over $12,000 thanks to grants, and at Amherst College, one of the top-rated liberal arts colleges, 57 percent of students who were eligible for financial aid paid approximately $13,000 in 2009.

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More schools offering financial aid for retirees and senior citizens

Posted on Aug. 6th 2010 by Alexis

senior citizens going back to schoolAs the baby boomer population slowly drifts into retirement, more and more of these retirees are heading back to college to upgrade their job skills and educational background.  Unbeknownst to some, many colleges and universities are now offering scholarships for seniors so they can enroll in a course at a cheap cost, or at no cost at all.

Depending on the college or the university, senior citizens can apply for tuition waivers or discounts, or enroll in continuing education classes which last anywhere from four to eight weeks. Some schools allow senior citizens to audit a class for free, (meaning they can attend a lecture but they do not have to complete any assignments). In order to qualify, a senior citizen may be required to provide proof of age, state residency, retirement documentation, bank statements, or their high school diploma.

According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), approximately 84 percent of community colleges in the U.S. offer courses for students aged 50 and older. States that currently offer tuition waivers for some of their public colleges are: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

The GO-60 Program at Penn State University offers free tuition to those who are 60 years and older. In order to qualify for the program the applicant must be a Pennsylvania resident who is retired or working part-time, or a former Penn State alumni or employee.

At Northern Michigan University, Michigan residents who are 62 or older can apply for free tuition through the Senior Citizen Scholarship Program. However, applicants are still required to pay the student discretionary activity fee which costs $30.26, and the program does not apply to online courses.

The University of Delaware has an Over-60 Tuition Free Degree Program which offers free tuition to Delaware residents aged 60 and over. Seniors who are currently taking classes as Continuing Education students are not eligible for the program, and the applicants still have to pay for late registration charges, fees, and textbook costs.

The Prime Timers Program at Georgia Perimeter College allows those who are aged 62 or older to complete an associate degree program for no cost at all, however they are required to pay for their own textbooks as well as various activity, technology, athletic and student support fees.

Over 3,000 senior citizens have already applied for the Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver at the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State University, or at one of the 12 community colleges. In order to qualify the applicant must be a Connecticut resident and aged 62 or older.

The Evergreen Program at Boston University allows those who are 58 and over to audit undergraduate classes for $100 per course or attend “special seminars” taught by the university faculty.

Last year as part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, a senior scholarship program was created to help support those who are 55 or older get funding for their education. The program awards $1,000 to a senior citizen who volunteers more than 350 hours out of the year, and they can choose to use the money for their child’s, grandchild’s, or foster child’s education.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI) currently offer 93 non-credit senior citizen programs which can cost anywhere from $25 to $450. Seniors can enroll in a course at any of the 118 participating colleges and universities, some of which include the University of South Dakota, San Diego State University, Texas Tech University, and Florida International University. (To find the one closest to you click here).

These are just some of the many programs that are available for seniors who are interested in applying for tuition discounts or scholarships. Because many colleges and universities generally do not publicize these opportunities, senior citizens are encouraged to call their local college or university to see if they are eligible for any scholarships or tuition waivers.

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Recession Could Mean Increased Financial Aid for Students

Posted on Dec. 29th 2009 by Amelia

As students and their respective families enter the 2010 financial aid application time period, those filling out applications should be reminded of a letter sent by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last spring.

255px-DuncanArneAs just one aspect of President Barack Obama’s pledge to increase student participation in higher education, the U.S. Department of Education released what has been dubbed a “Dear Colleague” letter. That communication, dated May 8th, encouraged college financial-aid administrators to take into consideration any special circumstances that students and families have faced during the economic downturn.

The key aspect of the letter involves an effort to make families more aware of a concept referred to as professional judgment. However, while the letter sought to have schools take greater responsibility for making more families aware of their rights, those filling out application forms owe it to themselves to understand the concept and the current circumstances surrounding Duncan’s letter.

The Letter

First, The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the fundamental change that Duncan’s office was seeking. While families have always had the right to ask the financial-aid office to exercise professional judgment, many were unaware of this right. The Duncan letter went so far as to encourage “financial-aid administrators to reach out to students and families who may be in trouble.”

In addition, Duncan’s letter clarified the changing circumstances for which financial aid administrators should consider utilizing professional judgment.

“A changed circumstance certainly includes the loss of a job or a reduction in work hours or wages,” wrote Duncan, “but it also includes, for example, the income loss associated with a prospective student’s decision to leave the work force or to reduce work hours in order to return to school.”

The letter further indicated that professional judgment should be used on a case-by-case basis and requires colleges document the changed circumstances.

The Use of Professional Judgment

The idea of financial aid officers exercising professional judgment is simple to describe. According to The Chronicle:

Professional judgment allows aid officers “to adjust student aid to reflect a family’s financial circumstances not reflected on the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.”

In other words, schools are being asked to look beyond the numbers and examine a student’s and/or families’ immediate circumstances. For example, if the student or parent worked most of last year, the FAFSA form might call for a specific expected family contribution based on those earnings.

iStock_000005795312XSmallHowever, if the student or parent recently became unemployed or has seen a reduction in hours or hourly wage, then their ability to pay has been significantly altered. And for 2010, another adjustment involves families who took a hardship withdrawal from a retirement account to cover a medical bill. Normally such a withdrawal would be counted as income earned in that respective year but will not be for earnings in 2009.

The use of professional judgment was not something schools practiced liberally in the past. In fact, such a step previously held negative ramifications for institutions.

Previously, the Department of Education had used the professional judgment determination in its risk-based model to select schools for program reviews. The higher the percentage of students qualifying for professional judgment, the more likely the school could find itself in the review process.

The Duncan letter informed colleges that for both 2008-09 and 2009-10, the Department would make appropriate adjustments to its risk-based model.

Implication for Students

Students and families who have been impacted by the economic downturn need to understand their right to request that aid officers make adjustments even if such an adjustment is not offered. Such an adjustment could dramatically affect one’s status, creating a new-found eligibility for grants and other need-based student aid that a student may not have previously qualified for. Students might also qualify for additional federal loans and work study options.

The biggest benefactors would be those individuals who have been laid off or had hours/wage reductions yet are interested in returning to school to retrain. Those individuals could conceivably find themselves in a position to be eligible for significant levels of need-based financial aid based on their current employment status.

Previously, independent students who had been laid off had to report their unemployment benefits as income. The Duncan letter directs institutions to set that student’s earned income from work to zero for financial aid purposes.

But other benefactors could be current students who have had one or both parents lose wages. If a student or family has seen a recent paycheck change they should be sure to alert their respective financial aid office and seek adjustments accordingly. For greater clarity on who might be eligible, the Department of Education and the Department of Labor have collaborated on a web site that offers assistance to those recently unemployed.

Adding further optimism for students and families are a number of other positive aid developments. The maximum Pell Grant will be increasing to $5,350 for the 2009-2010 school year and to $5,550 for the 2010-2011 academic year. Those numbers are up from $4,731 a year ago.

In addition, the Hope Credit (now called the American opportunity tax credit) has risen to $2,500 for the 2009 and 2010 tax years (up from $1,800) and can be claimed for the first four years of post-secondary education (previously available for first two years only). The maximum income level for Hope eligibility is $90,000 for single filers and $180,000 for joint filers for 2009 and 2010.

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Keeping Low Income Students Out of College

Posted on Oct. 18th 2007 by Amelia

Talk to the Hand.

Barriers to Higher Education are Alive and Well

The Higher Education Act of 1965 launched some of the first financial programs aimed at the support of low-income and disadvantaged students. Since then, dozens of federal and state scholarship and grant programs have been developed to assist the same. A popular theory remains: more and more free money will put more disadvantaged and minority students into college and solve the problem of low college attendance rates among high poverty students. Regardless of the money higher education continues to throw at low-income students, the numbers actually attending college and staying in college remain low. If money is not the solution, then what’s the problem?

The Problem

There are significant numbers of public funds already available for low-income students. Add to this the increasing trend among elite and reputable colleges and universities to spring for full tuition scholarships for academically eligible disadvantaged students and a more relevant question becomes: “With the money available already for low-income and minority students, why do so many fail to earn a college degree?” What circumstances beyond the financial, continue to impede the educational roadway of the disadvantaged student, and why does higher education, at large, repeat the same ineffective gestures in its quest for the solution?

Dream of College Access for All Americans

Capitol Hill.President Lyndon B. Johnson dreamed of building our country into one in which “a high school senior [could] apply to any college or any university in any of the 50 States and not be turned away because his family is poor…” He further declared, “Education in this day and age is a necessity.”1 He made these statements on the same day he signed the Higher Education Act of 1965 into legislation. If higher education was deemed a necessity in 1965, then it has become critical by today’s standards.

For the most part President Johnson’s dream has become a reality, but outside of the financial, some of the same barriers to higher education remain:

  • Schools that fail to adequately prepare students for college.
  • Outside influences and expectations, especially those of parents/family and educators.
  • Psychological factors.

Secondary Schools Fail to Prepare Students for College

Does the Student Qualify?

Regardless of the money available to low-income students, in many cases students fail to even qualify for college admission. Perhaps, as some critics of the current system argue, where career and guidance counselors proactive in “talking up” college as soon as middle school, kids particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds would incorporate college goals into their futures much more naturally than when career and education goals are thought inconsequential.

Educators, including teachers, counselors, and principals, simply have low expectations of disadvantaged students, say some proponents of education reform. An overall neglect of college preparation routinely takes place at most minority and high poverty high schools. The perception that disadvantaged students will either not make it into college, have little interest in higher education, or be unworthy of the time spent to get them prepared, are all subversive and deeply damaging perceptions. At best this disregard is a primitive throwback to the same circumstances President Johnson sought to bury.

The Non-Existent College Prep Curricula

Average, college bound high school seniors are alarmingly unprepared for the rigors of college academics, but an even more disturbing population of low-income and minority students seem to avoid college altogether or possess test scores and academic records that have put many in higher education on alert. In fact, the circumstances renew debate over the quality of public school systems: “Nine in ten high school graduates from families earning more than $80,000 attend college by the time they are 24, compared to only six in ten from families earning less than $33,000.”2

Research proves that many of the so-called high school assessment tests “bear little resemblance to the work [students] are expected to do in college.” Despite the best hopes of those students that do possess college degree expectations, preparation for such is sorely lacking—students again and again clearly “lack crucial information on applying to college and on succeeding academically once they get there.”3 College administrators report that most students only think they are academically prepared; the sobering reality is that the so-called college prep curriculum they slogged through in high school was not college level work, after all.

Ironically, this lack of preparedness is the ailment of many average high school grads, and not exclusive to low-income students. But evidence shows that “a greater percentage of low-income students are marginally qualified or unqualified for admission at four-year institutions.”4

And college prep includes providing students the appropriate information with which to pursue college, including college search, financial aid and scholarships, and admissions processes. But in many disadvantaged schools the information is not disseminated, not included as a natural progression in education.

Financial AidFor students interested in pursuing college the process becomes a bit like fumbling in the dark: “many low-income college students need aid and do not know how to apply for federal or state assistance.”5 Low-income students often opt for a community college—open access and remedial coursework, and schedule flexibility that allows students to work part time and carry on normal family responsibilities.

High Scores vs. Student Success and the “Push-Out” Phenomenon

High schools across the country have new standards by which to adhere. Accountability in secondary education may play a significant part in the collegiate success or failure of certain students. Since the inception of No Child Left Behind the reliance on test-based schools has split students down the middle—in some areas. Students are either an asset or a deficit to a school.6

In New York City, test scores served to define a dispensable archipelago of students most likely to fail. Students at disadvantaged schools throughout the region were so overlooked that rogue administrators and educators systematically amputated from the system whole populations of underachievers for the “betterment” of the whole. The plan was simple: “push out” students with poor grades and low test scores and test score averages would look a lot better.7

The Teacher Factor

Teacher.Does a high quality teacher make a difference to a low-income and/or disadvantaged student, and if so, why? A growing body of evidence shows that teachers do matter. But studies have begun to prove an alarming trend: “The very children who most need strong teachers are assigned, on average, to teachers with less experience, less education, and less skill than those who teach other children.”8

A study that surveyed three Midwest revealed consistent data proving that in most low income schools teachers were much more likely to be “inexperienced, out-of-field, and uncertified.” Furthermore, as school enrollment of low-income students increased, the population of teachers hired grew increasingly inexperienced.9 Most studies declare five years of teaching experience as the dividing line between experienced and inexperienced.

The less experienced the teacher the less likely he or she is to be qualified or motivated to guide disadvantaged students in wise career and education choices. Surprisingly, teacher surveys have also proven that on the whole they, too, tend to have an unsure grasp on the college preparatory process.10

The qualities most valued and effective in high-quality teachers include:

  • Over five years experience teaching within their specialty.
  • Teachers able to modify methods on-the-fly and in direct response to student abilities.
  • Teachers with degrees from reputable institutions.

Contemporary findings such as these provide more leverage for school systems, and lawmakers when it comes time to plan teacher distribution models designed to serve future generations of students.

Can Experienced Teachers Get Disadvantaged Students to College?

Data has been culled from a crew of challenged high schools, turned-high-performing, in various regions of the U.S. that proves high quality teachers can make a significant difference with at-risk youth. In every high performing school surveyed almost half the student bodies were from high minority-high poverty backgrounds. And in every case the population of college bound students had increased above the national average.

What factors set high performing high schools with diverse student bodies well above others in nurturing college ready graduates?

  • High quality and experienced teachers able to adjust methods to suit students.
  • A very relevant and challenging college preparatory curriculum that surpasses state requirements.
  • Unlimited access to academic tutors and career advisors.11

Part of the goal of the Higher Education Act of 1965 was to promote improvement in high minority/high poverty schools, including attracting more experienced teachers. Contrary to some, both these factors—schools and teachers—continue to figure prominently in the educational futures of students.

College Admission Requirements Detrimental to Disadvantaged Students

Whether high school or college, the fact is that reputation, high marks, selectivity ratings, and even cost of tuition, all constitute factors that conspire to create an institution’s reputation. Ratings and credentials have become a beacon for student business, a means to market and advertise a college to expanding populations of prospective students.

US News and World Report.

The annual U.S. News and World Report: America’s Best Colleges has become a much-anticipated publication.


New criticism, though, from college administrators aims to downplay the relevancy of some of the ratings, which many say have nothing to do with a good college education. Why so much fuss over ratings? The report has been widely dubbed the college “beauty contest,” and the higher colleges and universities have driven ratings the better their business. But in the process, some pieces of the academic puzzle have been forsaken, like some populations of students.

Ratings Drive Business, Which In Turn Drives Up Admission Reqs

Colleges and universities that rank well in the U.S. News report seek to be considered “selective.” This kind of marketing seems to make business more brisk, but it also makes it challenging to attract a large minority or low-income student population. In order to make a college accessible for the majority of low-income and disadvantaged students, admission requirements must be relaxed.

The traditional metrics of admission include SAT scores and GPA, precisely the type of measurements most low-income students suffer by. As we explored above, it’s not their responsibility—educators have been loath to provide the proper guidance and nurture—and, besides, SAT and GPA are rarely accurate indications of academic worthiness. This then is why a growing stable of college administrators is taking aim at the notoriously exclusive annual ratings race.12

SAT.Compared to the relatively small number of college administrators backing away from the ratings game, there are plenty that believe in its promise. For instance, a strong cadre of schools believes the marketing theory that overpriced products and services attract buyers and consumers because high price implies high quality. This then is why tuitions are hiked and SAT and GPA requirements inflated. Yet again, disadvantaged students are unable to reach certain institutions where, ironically, money is likely to exist for their education.

When Admission Hikes Purposely Dismiss Disadvantaged Students

Another strategy behind ramped up admission requirements seeks to purposely define the splinter group of underachievers and those students with low test scores and make it impossible for them to essentially clog the way of those students without academic challenges. Low income and minority students with low SAT scores and low GPAs “will be steered” to the state’s community colleges.

Simultaneously more college prep programs are being built into the state’s public school system. Students will now have a system in place able to alert them should their academics fall below realistic first year college goals.13

Outside Influences Offer Most Resistance to College Life

Besides money and academic challenge, many low-income and disadvantaged students face challenges much more murky to middle and upper income, white Americans. In some cases the influence of parents and family are more profound than more mainstream issues.14

Parental Influence

ParentalConsider the idea that many minority and low-income students come from first generation families, meaning no one else has yet gone to college. For many average American students, the dream of a college degree is fueled over the years by parents. When that drive is not there, other priorities may take precedence, such as job, finance and family.

It’s not that parents of first gen college students have no desire to see their children succeed, even go to college, but most are unable to provide the type of support necessary to bolster a fresh and, perhaps, disenfranchised college newbie.

Cultural Perceptions of Debt

Financial aid experts may also have discovered another roadblock—“cultural aversion to debt.” Over the years the financial aid needs of middle and upper income students have risen, but statistics have shown little or no increase in the student loan debt among low-income and ethnic minority student groups, which “calls into question the effectiveness of student loans in aiding low-income populations.” Studies strongly suggest that minorities are “more sensitive to price and less willing to use educational loans to pay for college when making their college decisions.”15

Tuition sticker shock may be a similar deterrent. Even though academically talented low-income students may qualify to enroll in elite universities where the ability to prove a certain level of disadvantage buys them a free ride, only a fraction of those actually eligible partake of the opportunity. The scholarships from institutions like Harvard and Princeton are not just in place for altruistic purposes. These “white-bread” institutions want to diversify and offering money for disadvantaged students seems a good idea. Surprisingly, a much larger wellspring of academically qualified low-income students is out there. SAT scores prove the numbers,16 but where are they?

Educator Expectation Matters, Too

ExpectationsThe nation’s low-income students, including those with academic fortitude and those dubbed low-achievers, may share common bonds: many face familial and cultural obstacles, but do they also face low educator expectations? Studies have already measured the effect of educator expectation on the college outcomes of low-income, minority students and found alarming numbers of low-quality teachers and counselors with little hope for students in lower income brackets.

Teachers and advisors acting out of their personal beliefs and stereotypes may be unable to provide the unbiased guidance underserved students require to get them to the doorstep of a college campus, whether it be a community college or one of the elite universities.17

What Then if Not Money?

WonderingConsidering the obstacles discussed above, are there further psychological impacts? If I am a student from a low-income household in which neither of my parents attended college, isn’t it likely that a college degree will not be a main priority in my life? And if I am academically talented, would I not feel out of place and disenfranchised on a Harvard campus even if my education were fully funded?

If I overheard teachers in my high school complaining about their jobs and saying that many of the students will be lucky to make it to graduation, much less college, would I not doubt my teachability, my worth as a student?

Harvard can roll out its red carpet and dangle full scholarships ‘til the cows come home, but what really eats away at the collegiate futures of low-income, minority students—talented or not—has little to do with money.


  1. LBJ for Kids, accessed September 3, 2007,
  2. “Harvard Announces New Initiative to Aimed at Economic Barriers to College,” Harvard University Gazette, February 28, 2004, accessed September 5, 2007,
  3. Rooney, Megan, “High Schools Fail to Prepare Many Students for College, Stanford Study Says,” March 3, 2003, accessed September 4, 2007,
  4. Andrea Venezia, Michael Kirst, Anthony Antonio, Betraying the College Dream: How Disconnected K-12 Schools and Postsecondary Education Systems Undermine Student Aspirations, 2003, accessed September 4, 2007,
  5. Kirst, Michael, “Betraying the College Dream in America,” The College Puzzle, August 21, 2007, accessed September 4, 2007,
  6. Beveridge, Andrew, “Counting Drop Outs,” Gotham Gazette, August 2003, accessed September 4, 2007,
  7. Beveridge, Andrew, Gotham Gazette.
  8. Heather Peske, Kati Haycock, Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality, The Education Trust, June 2006, accessed September 2, 2007,
  9. Peski, Haycock, The Education Trust.
  10. Venezia, Kirst, Antonio, Betraying the College Dream
  11. “Preparing All High School Students for College and Work: What High-Performing Schools are Teaching,” ACT, February 23, 2005, accessed August 30, 2007,
  12. “U.S. News College Rankings Debated,” The Online News Hour (transcript), PBS, August 20, 2007, accessed September 5, 2007,
  13. Tresaugue, Matthew, “UT Campuses Will Raise Admission Standards,” University of Houston, May 10, 2007, accessed September 5, 2007,
  14. Szelenyi, Katalin, “Minority Student Retention and Academic Achievement in Community Colleges,” 2004, accessed August 29, 2007,
  15. Cultural Barriers to Incurring Debt, ECMC Group Foundation, 2003, accessed September 3, 2007,
  16. “Large Numbers of Highly Qualified, Low-Income Students Are Not Applying to Harvard and Other Highly Selective Schools,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 2006, accessed August 26, 2007,
  17. Patricia George and Rosa Aronson, How Do Educators’ Cultural Belief Systems Affect Underserved Students’ Pursuit of Postsecondary Education?” Pathways to College Network, 2003, accessed September 3, 2007,
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How Will the New Affirmative Action Controversies Affect Your Scholarship/Financial Aid Search?

Posted on Jan. 26th 2007 by Amelia

If you haven’t been paying attention, Affirmative Action is under fire in the college/university realm. At the epicenter is Michigan, which has recently passed a proposition—a.k.a. the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative,—a la California’s Proposition 209 passed in 1996. California’s landmark law made it illegal for state colleges and universities, as well as any other public institution, to consider college admissions and financial aid on the basis of gender, color, race, creed or nationality.

But for the last few decades that is exactly how colleges and universities have diversified. The last decade itself saw scads of science, engineering and technology (SET) scholarships targeted specifically and unabashedly to minorities and women. If you listen to such watch-dog organizations as the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) then you will likely be influenced to believe that higher education is now turned on its ear racially. Others argue for the gender side—white males are a minority on college campuses, thanks to years of preferential scholarships for minorities and women.

Yes, it’s one big messy Pandora’s Box and everyone has a gripe.

How We Do “Race-Blind”?

“Race-blind” is the new buzzword in college admissions. But the issue encompasses gender as well. For college students all this political rhetoric and positioning portends a muddle of scholarship and financial aid shifts, including careful rewording of applications and criteria and selection rationale. But will it change anything, really?

The New York Times (Colleges Regroup After Voters Ban Race Preferences, Lewin) today suggests that colleges and universities en masse will scramble to find their way around the issues, alter application criteria to include more ambiguous terms all the while staying ON race:

“At Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, a new admissions policy, without mentioning race, allows officials to consider factors like living on an Indian reservation or in mostly black Detroit, or overcoming discrimination or prejudice.”

Popular Vote—Who’s Popular?

Michigan’s Proposition 2, it’s noted, was passed by a “popular vote” of 52 to 48, “despite strong opposition from government, business, labor, education and religious leaders.” Since the issue now polarizes voters, and it’s unclear how many of those are college students registered to vote, the question becomes WHO exactly is getting out the vote?

If you’re looking at colleges, especially public, this will likely affect you, regardless of your color, race, creed or sex. And the issue is becoming pervasive:

“Both defenders and opponents of affirmative action say the lesson of last fall’s campaign in Michigan…is that such initiatives can succeed almost anywhere.”

It would be interesting if the demographics of the vote in Michigan were available; for instance, how many African American, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, and women voted for the measure? Better yet, how telling it might be to actually see the numbers of registered college voters that participated. Because once all is said and done this may be THE minority group we’re talking about.

Even though the CEO and others may argue that race is sucking the life out of college admissions and financial aid, there are just as many others that argue killing Affirmative Action will assuredly set off a juggernaut of racial inequality on campuses across the U.S. How do they suppose that?

Race-Blind Undoes Diversity Measures

Follow-up to the California Proposition 209 and similar measures in Texas have proven the theory. UCLA’s numbers on Blacks, Hispanics and Asians entering next gen classes have been incrementally dropping since 209 was passed. In fact, according to the NYT Black freshmen at UCLA are at a “30-year low.” Texas universities revealed similar scores, which subsequently impelled officials to once again include race in the admissions criteria for public universities.

Since it seems that nationwide campus diversity will continue to be a bugaboo for institutions regardless of the “popular vote,” which I’d argue is largely post-college, what can be done to maintain fairness and diversity?

Wayne State University in Detroit set one of its law professors on the problem. His job was to develop a workable plan that jumps through Michigan’s new legal measures, while at the same time it discreetly circumnavigates the brouhaha. Carefully worded language and rephrased criteria that summarily avoid the word “race,” instead troll for students based on:

“…first in the family to go to college or graduate school; having overcome substantial obstacles, including prejudice and discrimination; being multilingual; and residence abroad, in Detroit or on an Indian reservation.”

New Age of Scholarships and Financial Aid

Yes, there are changes afoot, but how drastically they will change is hard to say. Colleges and universities know they must find a way to stay the course with diversity measures at the same time they must respect the law. In the future you will find that your “disadvantage,” whatever it may be, must be approached from a more subtle aspect. Students who mention race, gender and any other Affirmative Action-related labels and terms may be pushed aside in the name of the law.

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