Ohio Attorney General advises colleges to review race factor in scholarships

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has told Ohio’s universities they should reconsider using race as a factor in scholarship awards and eliminate race in admission considerations following a 2023 Supreme Court decision.

The 2023 decision, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, has forced universities to review the role of race in admissions process and many U.S. universities have already made changes, including most recently schools in Florida.

“Although the Court did not expressly prohibit race-based scholarships, it indicated that ‘eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.’ Race-based scholarships discriminate on the basis of race in awarding benefits,” said Bethany McCorkle, communications director for the Ohio AG’s office. “Therefore, it would follow that such programs are unconstitutional.”

It’s not clear how many race-based scholarships are available at Ohio universities. Many scholarships are offered based on athletic ability, GPA, ACT or SAT score, class rank, first-generation college student or essays.

One Ohio State scholarship, the Land Grant scholarship, offers a full ride to students with Pell-eligibility and academic ability with a goal of offering it to two students in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Very few of Ohio’s public universities admit students based on race, according to the Common Data Set, a list of standardized questions about students at each university. The questions are a collaboration from the College Board, Thomson Peterson’s, and U.S. News & World Report, and include a set of questions about how admissions decisions are made.

The public Ohio universities who reported using race in the 2022-2023 school year on the Common Data Set were Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, but both said that has been discontinued. The CDS data shows that when race was used, it was less important than GPA and test results, and considered the same as a recommendation at both universities.

Miami University and Wright State University said race was not used in admissions in the 2021-2022 school year, according to the CDS.

University of Cincinnati officials said they discontinued using race in admissions 10 years ago. It’s not clear why the university said they were using race as a factor in the 2022-2023 school year on the CDS.

Jack Miner, vice provost for Enrollment Management at UC, said the university relies on a holistic review model that looks at a student’s entire application, including academic performance, activities and admission essays.

“As part of the move to a holistic review model, race was removed as a factor in admission,” Miner said.

Miner said students sometimes disclose demographics as part of their personal story.

“While race is not used as a factor for an admission decision, a student may describe how experiences based on their race or community have influenced them and their development,” Miner said, noting this was acceptable under the Students for Fair Admissions ruling.

While it’s allowed for students to disclose their race or ethnicity during essays, the reviewers can’t use that information in making their decisions.

Ohio State ended the practice of using race as a factor in admissions last year after the ruling came out, according to the university.

The university said it is also, “updating scholarship and other student support funds to ensure compliance with the law.”

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