Blacks Are Missing Out on Much of the More Than $1.6 Billion in Merit-Based Aid Given Out by State Governments

Blacks, who are three times as likely to be poor as whites, disproportionately benefit when need-based aid for college students is directed to youngsters in low-income families. But blacks, who on average have significantly lower grade point averages and scores on standardized tests for college admission than whites, receive almost insignificant portions of merit-based aid.

More than two decades ago, in 1986, more than 86 percent of all federal financial aid for college students was based on need. Today, less than 60 percent of all federal financial aid for students is based solely on need.

The trend away from financial aid based on need that is so harmful to college-bound blacks is now developing at the state level. According to a new report issued by the National Association for State Student Grants and Aid Programs, 63 percent of all financial aid for college and graduate students awarded by state governments nationwide is need based.

In state-based financial assistance, the trend in recent years increasingly has been toward more merit-based aid. From 1999 to 2007, the percentage of all state grants that was need based dropped from 81 percent to 63 percent. About 22 percent of all need-based grants given by state governments also have a merit component where only high-performing, low-income students are eligible for the grants.

Overall, more than $1.6 billion in financial aid based solely on merit was awarded by state governments in 2007. This is triple the amount a decade ago. If this 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.