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Iowa State University offers scholarships that appear to exclude white applicants

Administration offers contradictory information regarding scholarship eligibility

The largest public university in the state of Iowa offers a scholarship that appears to categorically exclude white applicants.

Through its Multicultural Vision Program, Iowa State University awards full tuition to 100 incoming multicultural students each year. But according to the scholarship’s published informational material, white students are not permitted to receive it.

The program’s website stipulates that “eligible students must…identify as: American Indian or Alaskan Native, Black/African American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latinx, or Multiracial on the application for undergraduate admission.”

When asked if being white disqualifies applicants from the scholarship, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Multicultural Student Affairs Kenyatta Shamburger told The College Fix via email: “There are student recipients who identify as white. If applicants do not meet the established criterion, as is the case with most scholarship awards, the application would not be approved.”

When asked for clarification, Shamburger told The Fix that being white does not disqualify applicants from the “established criterion.”

This seems to contradict the program’s stipulation that students “must” identify with a non-white ethnicity in order to be eligible for the scholarship. While the scholarship is ostensibly unavailable for white people, it may permit part-Caucasian biracial individuals to apply under a “multiracial” identity.

“We have students who identify white as a part of their identity who have the scholarship,” Shamburger told The Fix.

The program claims to help eligible students grow “by expanding your cultural awareness, building supportive relationships, and achieving academic success.”

It is also guided by five principles, which include: “Sense of Belonging, Social Involvement, Academic Success, Leadership Development and Community Engagement,” according to the program’s website.

In addition to being multicultural, applicants must also be “U.S. Citizens or permanent residents, and residents of the state of Iowa, who demonstrate academic potential in ways that go beyond class ranking or test scores.”

The College Fix reached out for comment to Tabatha Cruz, coordinator for retention of the Multicultural Vision Program, and Jessica Mena Flores, a graduate assistant of the program. Neither responded to The Fix’s repeated emails.

Universities have offered scholarships on the basis of race and gender in the past. In 2014, Butler University offered numerous scholarships on the basis of race, with aid packages being offered to “Caucasian undergraduates,” “[women] of Indian descent” and “female student[s] of Hispanic descent.”

Other universities have offered scholarships that exclude large segments of the population. Smith College offers a scholarship that aims to “support the education of students who are U.S. permanent residents with refugee or asylum status, undocumented students and international students at Smith [College].”

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About the Author
Ben Decatur -- University of Michigan