Paying for college is one of a senior’s, and their parent’s, hardest dilemmas towards the end of their high school career. Scholarships take away a bit of that pain for every student seeking all kinds of careers and types of higher education. Unique scholarships can hone in on unique students, such as how involved a student is and what they are interested in. Different scholarship programs can derive from what a student is interested in for the future, what sports they play, or what extra curricular activities they take part in outside of school.
And most importantly, scholarships can be offered based on school work as well, how hard a student works, and what kind of grades they get. However, during my hunt for financial help, I discovered that some scholarships are race-based for minority students. Like the Bill Gates Millennium scholarships for example, in which four different ethnic groups are represented, each one pretty general. On the surface, the intents are wholesome: minority students are recognized emphatically and diversity is promoted by both school and scholarship programs. But beneath the surface, is it possible that by trying to promote a variation in demographics in higher education, other races including those of a mixed breed and those classified as “white,” are being discriminated?
I feel that that these types of scholarships and college quotas are unnecessary, as race should not be a factor at all. In an opinion article from Statesman Journal regarding a supreme court hearing about taking race out of these equations in Chicago, reporter Esther Cepeda wrote, “Income level, not race, is the main barrier to a good education in this country. It [is] America’s responsibility to ensure that all low-income students have the opportunity to get an uncompromisingly meaningful K-12 education that will propel them into college based on their brains, not their skin color.”
In the same article, Cepeda discussed how she was also considered a Hispanic minority, and admitted that she felt this was why she may have gotten a full-ride scholarship to Northwestern University, stating, “I was not academically equal to my peers and woefully unprepared for the math-heavy statistical analysis needed to complete the basic courses in data mining. My low first-quarter grades put me on academic probation and I later ended up leaving school, never having gotten that graduate degree-another statistic showing that minority access to college does not guarantee completion.”
Although Cepeda’s situation may not be that of all racial minorities and she is just one case, she is right in that even if a college (or scholarship) applicant is of a rare race, so to speak, it should not be an exceeding factor over that of academic priority, and filling a racial quota should not exist.
In “The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College,” by Jacques Steinberg, much about what happens after applying to a college was revealed, including the need to search for students of varying races. Admissions officer Ralph Figueroa of Wesleyan University, in the story sought out students of different cultures to bring diversity to the school, however, according to the novel, “he hardly saw his job in terms of being a talent scout for minorities…he viewed his responsibility to be to recruit kids with a range of life experiences and assorted strengths.”
One of the students Figueroa sought after was Native American student Migizi Pensoneau, who had been known as a film buff and an aspiring film director and writer, and figured that he would always go to college. However, according to the novel, Pensoneau had a C average throughout freshman through junior years, including multiple D’s and two F’s. Combined with a troubled social life, it would not have looked good on a typical application. However, in his last year of high school he thrived for a chance, his last chance to be considered for a higher educational, pulling his average up to a B plus, and getting involved in and out of school. Because of this, I feel, Pensoneau deserved a chance as much as anyone else. However, if it had anything to do with him being the only Native American at the school, it is not necessarily fair, considering he sailed through most of his school career, because there may be other students out there who have tried hard from the beginning of high school to get the spot that was being given to him.
Others may argue that there exists a “White Privilege,” still. There is even a famous essay about it from 1988, called “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” by an American feminist and anti-racist activist, Peggy McIntosh. In it, McIntosh describes a list of what she believes are things that white people take for granted, such as, being able to choose “blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match [her] skin,” and never having “to speak for all people of her race.” In some ways, she is right and in some places, there is some racial discrimination to a point where minorities may be considered nearly invisible.
Coming from one of the most diverse schools around, however, Malden High School, I myself appreciate being surrounded by a multi-cultured group. When it comes down to it though, colleges should not have to choose race over other priorities in order to fill a quota; race has nothing to do with how well a person can perform.
March 2013** Correction: Page 12 should say "Class of 2014 Presents..."**