According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education, in the 2007–08 academic year, undergraduates received $62 billion in grant aid from a variety of sources. Over the 1996 to 2007 period, the percentage of all undergraduate students receiving merit-based grants increased from 6 percent to 14 percent. During the same period, the percentage of all undergraduates receiving need-based financial aid increased from 32 percent to 37 percent.
In the 2007-08 academic year, 16.4 percent of all white undergraduates received merit-based aid. For all black undergraduates, 11.4 percent received merit-based grants. Just over 30 percent of all white students received scholarship grants based on need, compared to 52.9 percent of all black undergraduates.
If we look only those students attending four-year colleges and universities on a full-time basis, we find that 35.1 percent of white students and 26.9 percent of black students received merit-based grants. Nearly 40 percent of white students and 70.6 percent of black students received need-based financial aid.
Since whites are more likely than blacks to receive merit-based scholarships, the shift in financial aid toward grants based on merit rather than need, as was the case in the 1996 to 2008 period tracked in this study, will benefit whites and lessen the higher educational opportunities of African Americans.
The Department of Education report can be downloaded here.