Racial identity needs to be considered in financial aid, scholarship decisions

Proposal that does not consider marginalized identities in financial aid decisions reinforces inequitable systems in higher education

· Dec 6, 2023 Tweet

Abby Cima/The Badger Herald

In the Wisconsin Legislature, Republicans are advocating for a bill that would end the consideration of race, ethnicity, nationality and gender for financial aid and scholarships programs within the Universities of Wisconsin, according to AP News.

Racial, ethnicity, nationality and gender are all important aspects of identity that can contribute to an individual’s financial need and should be considered when determining scholarships and financial aid.

The Republican-backed bill is yet another attack on diversity, equity and inclusion on the college level — a battle which has been going on since July, according to AP News. This bill in particular, however, appears to build off of the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned affirmative action.

If this bill were to be passed, it would mean universities in Wisconsin could only focus on financial need as a component when determining which students receive scholarships or financial aid.

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This bill would also impact specific grant programs aimed at attracting minority students to certain fields of study such as education or minority student retention programs at Wisconsin technical colleges, according to The Cap Times.

Republicans may view this bill as evening the playing field, but it just makes it even more difficult for students of color to attend college.

Statistically, Hispanic and Latino students are most likely to be the first recipients of a college education in their family and these financial aid programs help those students reach the finish line.

Additionally, as a result of decade of discriminatory zoning policies, Black families have faced particular barriers to building generational wealth through homeownership, according to PBS Wisconsin.

For students who have faced systemic financial disadvantages, a lack of equitable aid prospects may deter prevent them from attending college.

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Additionally, race, ethnicity, nationality and gender are important parts of an individual that should not be erased when considering financial aid and scholarships.

A Wisconsin Republican advocating for this bill, Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville), claimed that race-based financial aid programs and scholarships are unfair because they advantage a person because of their skin color, according to AP News.

To the contrary, race-based financial aid programs do not offer advantages to students of color, but instead take into consideration the full scope of financial need. White people have benefited from a system that disadvantages people of color, and this should be taken into consideration when awarding financial aid.

Not to mention the specialized financial aid programs like those for education majors can not only help students of color attend college with a major they enjoy, but funnel teachers back into a struggling Wisconsin school system facing a teacher shortage.

Ultimately, if this bill were to be passed, there would likely be an effect on enrollment rates for students of color at many Wisconsin schools. With the high cost of attendance for universities, students who do not receive significant financial support through financial aid or scholarships are often not able to afford attending college.

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Without affirmative action programs, the admission of students of color drops significantly, according to the Brookings Institution. And when race-conscious aid decisions are not implemented, white students benefit from existing systems — such as legacy admissions, wealth inequality and athletic scholarships — that disproportionately benefit them.

The Wisconsin Republicans should end these attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion in Wisconsin universities and focus on issues like inflation and the housing crisis. The success and prosperity of students of color in the Universities of Wisconsin should not serve as a political bargaining chip for Republicans’ ongoing attacks on diversity.

Wisconsin universities need to maintain diversity, equity and inclusion programming to support the students they currently have on campus. To best support students of color, financial aid and scholarship programs across the state must continue to consider race, ethnicity, nationality and gender.

Emily Otten ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.

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This article was published Dec 6, 2023 at 12:00 pm and last updated Nov 19, 2023 at 2:40 pm

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