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For this STEM scholarship, middle-income white males ineligible to apply, all others welcome

ANALYSIS: Income requirement exists only for white men 

On the shore of Lake Michigan in bucolic southeastern Wisconsin, Gateway Technical College recently announced an attractive scholarship opportunity for its STEM students.

The scholarship, the SC Johnson STEM Scholars Program provided by SC Johnson, “the Family Company,” has a total value of $45,000 after four years.

To break it down, the program offers recipients $7,500 per year for their two years at Gateway.

Come graduation and transfer to a four-year program, awardees receive $7,500 per year, plus a guaranteed matching amount from the school they transferred to. It’s a potentially life-altering opportunity for young people to enter a lucrative and fulfilling career field.

The only catches? You must be a resident of Racine County — and not a white male whose family made over $50,000 last year.

The income requirement exists only for white men. Women and minorities, no matter how wealthy their families may be, are eligible for the scholarship.

That also means rich white women and Asian men — two well-represented groups in STEM — are also as eligible for the scholarship as low-income African-American students.

To better understand the reasoning behind these troubling and seemingly discriminatory requirements, The College Fix reached out to Gateway Tech and SC Johnson for clarification.

It was noted in the interview request that Asian men are likewise overrepresented in STEM relative to their share of the general population but are not held to the same income restrictions as white men.

Neither organization was willing to sit for an interview, instead opting to release statements.

The SC Johnson Global Corporate Communication team wrote:

“Only 1 in 4 STEM jobs in the United States are held by women, and Black and Latina women represent just 1 in 20 employed scientists and engineers. This scholarship is designed to create pathways to greater economic and social mobility for those with limited financial means and for those who have been historically underrepresented in high-demand STEM fields. It does not exclude people based on gender or race.”

While it is true that white men are eligible for the scholarship should their families make less than $50,000, any white man with a family income above that arbitrary threshold is the only sex and race pairing that no longer qualifies for the program. So at a certain socio-economic level, the program does exclude people based on race.

The Gateway Technical College release similarly circumvented the central question.

In its statement to The College Fix, Gateway spokesman Lee Colony said that while “the STEM Pathways program provides means for low-income students to gain access to an education, it does not exclude others.”

“Certainly, there is a component to attracting and encouraging young women of color to enter into STEM fields — career fields which currently lack women of color — but does not exclude others,” he said.

“The grant allows for men as well as women to receive the grant, students of color and white students or low-income and higher-income students. Low income is just one category of many – if students meet the requirements of any of the other categories, they would qualify and could apply, as well.”

Regarding the $50,000 cutoff point, Colony told The Fix: “That is a number that is set forth in the scholarship. It is a general number other colleges use, as well, for scholarships. Some are even more restrictive, using a $30,000 cutoff point.”

He also noted that the foundation is a separate, nonprofit entity from the college.

“There are many different private donors to the Foundation, and they specify how they would like for those scholarship dollars to be spent,” he said. “We are grateful for all the donors in the community and we respect their demographic giving. It assists students in ways the college could not.”

The College Fix’s requests for research pointing to a family income of $50,000 as the line of demarcation for material success in life for white men, and questions concerning the underrepresentation of caucasian LGBTQ men in STEM, were not answered by either SC Johnson or Gateway Technical College.

MORE: UMass offers grants for STEM research that advances equity

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About the Author
Luther Ray Abel -- Lawrence University