Financial Aid in College: What Does Race Have to Do With It?

tichavakundaToday’s blogger is Antar Tichavakunda, doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and researcher in the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Read his full article, “Perceptions of Financial Aid: Black Students at a Predominantly White Institution,” in The Educational Forum.

The scholarly work examining the complexities of Black students’ experiences at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) is expansive, but no prior research has studied these students’ interpretations of financial aid. The purpose of my study recently published in The Educational Forum was to address this research gap.

Why look at race and financial aid?

Student perceptions of financial aid are informed by more than socioeconomic status. The way Black students perceive financial aid may be affected by the campus climate of the schools they attend. Some scholars have argued that PWIs cater to White students and groups that assimilate with the majority population.

At a school where the Black student population is the small minority, their interactions and experiences with support services, such as financial aid, may be distinct from those of racial groups that make up the largest proportions of the student population. Financial aid policies may be well suited for the majority of the student population; with research, officials can determine whether these same policies work for smaller minority groups as well.

Based on the findings of my study, I suggest that the complexity of financial aid forms and a lack of outreach from the financial aid office may contribute to a stressful financial aid experience for many Black students relying on aid.

Understanding financial aid requires more than identifying the difference between a grant and a loan. Navigating financial aid as a college student requires more than turning in specific forms before certain dates. Ensuring that students correctly fill out their financial aid forms their first year may not be enough. Students busy with studying, socializing, and organizational involvement might benefit from more checking in from financial aid offices.

My research indicates that we can learn how to better support and reach Black students at PWIs so that they might make the best decisions about financial aid with less stress.

In the second part of this blog series I will highlight the “Dos and Don’ts” of supporting all college students in their interactions with financial aid.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Antar Tichavakunda’s article with the education community for free through February 28, 2017.

2 thoughts on “Financial Aid in College: What Does Race Have to Do With It?

  1. Bernardo S says:

    The first time I learned racism existed was in college. I was told I was “too white” to receive financial aid. What is “too white” & how come I was & who gets to decide? How come need wasn’t the criteria for aid and how does denying me aid hurt racism? I was as poor as they come. 18 years old. No family support, on my own. I ate lemons for breakfast I took off trees on my walk to class. I’d peel them & eat them like you’d eat an orange. That kinda need-financial-aid poor. I grew up in the poor part of town. As kids, we didn’t care about each other’s race. It was immaterial. We didn’t care about skin tone, we just cared that we had enough kids to play whatever game we wanted to play. We recognized people were of varying races, we just didn’t care. The thought of caring didn’t enter my mind until I was taught that by the racism institutionalized in the preferential treatment of people with a different tan than me. Racial classification is just dumb. It’s 2019. Enough already. The sooner everybody stops paying attention to race, the quicker racism will end. I guess there are racists out there. In my professional and personal life I never encounter any, but the news keeps saying racism is out there, somewhere. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t heard it. Nobody I know or work with cares about race even a little bit. “Can you do the job.” “Are you a cool person to hang out with.” THOSE are our standards. Race doesn’t even rate. The dumber thing about the school incident, if that’s possible, is that by today’s artificial and arbitrary standards, I’m not even “white.”

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