States’ Merit-Based Grant Awards to College Students Quadruple in the Past Decade: Black Students Often Are Not Eligible for These Grants

According to a new report from the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs, more than $7.9 billion in financial aid for college and graduate students was provided by the 50 states in the 2004-05 academic year. This was an increase of 8 percent from the prior year.

About 73 percent of all state financial aid was based on need. About 20 percent of this need-based aid also has a merit component where only high-performing low-income students are eligible for the financial aid. From 1999 to 2005, the percentage of all state financial aid that was need based dropped from 81 percent to 73 percent.

Overall, nearly $1.8 billion in financial aid based solely on merit was awarded by state governments in 2005. This is four times the amount a decade ago. College-bound blacks, who on average have significantly lower grade point averages and scores on standardized tests than whites, often do not meet the eligibility requirements for these merit-based awards.

If this merit-based aid were redirected to needy students, the allocation could provide funds for an additional 150,000 or more financially pressed students to attend state-operated colleges and universities in the U.S.