Only One of the 278 Winners of the 2009 Goldwater Scholarships Is Black

Barry Goldwater, the famed conservative U.S. senator from Arizona and 1964 GOP presidential nominee, was a dedicated promoter of scientific and engineering research. In 1986, when Congress created a new scholarship program to encourage graduate study in mathematics, science, and engineering, Goldwater’s name was attached to the new program.

Students chosen as Goldwater Scholars can obtain tuition grants of $7,500 per year for two years. Since its founding the program has awarded more than 5,800 scholarships with a total value of $56 million.

Very few blacks have benefited from the Goldwater Scholarship program. But racism is not the culprit. The low number of black students pursuing graduate study in the sciences who meet the eligibility requirements results in a small pool of black applicants.

This spring 278 Goldwater Scholars were selected from a pool of 1,097 applicants. The Goldwater Scholarship Foundation told JBHE that only one of the 278 Goldwater Scholars self-identified as an African American.

Gerald Smith, the president of the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation, told JBHE that black students with the academic qualifications and graduate school aspirations required for Goldwater Scholarships are quickly “snapped up” by the nation’s leading research universities. Often they receive full-tuition scholarships and have no need to seek additional cash awards to finance their higher education.