National Merit Scholarship Corporation Ends Its Program for Black Students Entering College
Filed in Financial Aid on September 29, 2015
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in Evanston, Illinois, was founded in 1955 with funding from the Ford Foundation to give scholarship awards to new college students based on their performance on the PSAT test. While the NMSC claims to have no data on the race of who receives their scholarships, data from the College Board shows that Blacks typically make up between 1 and 2 percent of the very top scorers on these types of standardized tests.
It is likely that very few Black students were qualifying for National Merit Scholarships. So, in 1964, the organization founded the National Achievement Scholarship Program for Outstanding Negro Students. This was subsequently shortened to the National Achievement Scholarship Program. Over the past 51 years, 34,000 Black students have received about $108 million in scholarship awards under this Black-only program.
Now the last cohort of National Achievement Scholars has entered college. The NMSC has announced that a new program will be administered by the United Negro College Fund called the Achievement Capstone Program. No longer will entering college students receive scholarships to help them pay for college. Now students who graduate from historically Black colleges or universities or predominantly Black educational institutions will be eligible to receive money to help them pay off college loans or to help them finance graduate study.
Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, told JBHE that he has no idea why the NMSC decided to end its program for Black students entering college. He said that “the termination of the National Achievement Scholars Program means that even fewer top African American high school students will receive college tuition aid from the National Merit Scholarship Program. The misuse of PSAT results to select semifinalists in the main competition has long guaranteed that very few Blacks win awards from the main program, because of historic racial gaps in test scores. The separate-but-unequal National Achievement Scholar competition provided a partial offset to that inequity. What will replace those funds for talented, low-income teenagers?”