University of Tennessee Offers New Scholarship Program That Will Be an Important Boost to Many Black Students Seeking Higher Education

Many state-operated universities are wary of earmarking scholarships solely for black students. While the Supreme Court has yet to rule on black-only scholarships, the Court did decline to hear an appeal of a Maryland case in which the lower court ruled that such scholarships were illegal.

But the University of Tennessee has found a way of offering race-neutral scholarship awards that have the same impact that would occur had the scholarships been restricted to blacks.

In an effort to boost minority enrollments, the University of Tennessee is offering a new scholarship to students of any race who attend any one of 35 high schools in the state. The Tennessee Promise scholarships will offer up to $5,800 in tuition assistance each year to students from these high schools. The scholarships will be renewable, provided the student maintains a 2.0 grade point average.

Twenty-two of the 35 high schools are in the Memphis school district where 85 percent of all students are black.

The University of Tennessee currently has a student body that is 10.4 percent black. Only five years ago, just 6 percent of the student body at the flagship Knoxville campus was black.