Public Universities in Ohio Consider Outlawing Race-Based Scholarships

Many elite universities, meanwhile, have expressed a commitment to maintaining diversity in their student bodies after the Supreme Court ruled race-conscious admissions unconstitutional.

AP/Jose Luis Magana, File
Demonstrators protest outside of the Supreme Court at Washington after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions. AP/Jose Luis Magana, File

A slew of public universities in Ohio are considering taking the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions decisions one step further and ban race-based scholarships on their campuses. 

Ohio University said in a statement it is “temporarily pausing” awarding race-based diversity scholarships as it reviews whether selection criteria for admissions and scholarships are unconstitutional. At least six public universities in Ohio are considering following suit — Cleveland State University, Kent State University, the University of Akron, the University of Toledo, Youngstown State University, and Ohio State University. 

Many elite universities have expressed a commitment to maintaining diversity in their student bodies after the Supreme Court ruled in July that race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina violated the equal protections clause of the 14th Amendment. Ohio, however, and potentially other states across the country, could be interpreting that ruling to extend to race-based scholarships that were not expressly outlawed by the High Court. 

Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, urged colleges and universities in the state to comply with the affirmative action ban a day after it was announced. “In light of Harvard, institutions of higher education and institutional employees must immediately cease considering race when making admissions decisions,” he wrote in a letter. 

Mr. Yost warned that “employees of institutions of higher education will face personal risk should they consider race during the admissions process,” like being unable to raise qualified-immunity defense and thus being held personally liable for any lawsuits over a scholarship decision.

Ohio State University tells the Sun in a statement it is “in the process of updating scholarship criteria to ensure compliance with the law” and has begun reviewing all potentially relevant scholarships. Though the school said it was too soon to share numbers, it expects to distribute roughly $448 million dollars in financial aid across its student body of more than 65,000 students in the 2024 fiscal year. 

A Kent State University spokeswoman, Emily Vincent, tells the Sun that while the school is reviewing the potential impact of the Supreme Court ruling and Mr. Yost’s guidance, “we remain committed to helping every student graduate, which means offering academic, personal and financial support at every point of a student’s path to their successful career. Scholarships are another way we work to make the Kent State experience affordable while reducing debt for our graduates.”

Youngstown State University has not made any official announcement on how the Supreme Court ruling could impact its policies and procedures. “Updates will be made, as necessary, to continue to remain in compliance with all state and federal laws,” a university spokeswoman, Rebecca Rose, tells the Sun. 

Ohio University, which has already paused its scholarships, said its decision would not impact scholarships already awarded to current students, and that current students will continue to receive renewable scholarships if they meet the renewal criteria. The Ohio Capital Journal reported that scholarship committees at the university have until late March to submit student names for the scholarships.

Several elite universities, meanwhile, stated that their admissions committees will evaluate applicants by a process without a classification for racial identity following the Supreme Court’s July ruling. Yet some colleges and universities have since unveiled policies at odds with the affirmative action ban, according to  the College Admissions Accountability Act, introduced by Congressman Jim Banks and Senator Vance in December. That act is currently under review by the Senate to prevent “unlawful discrimination in higher education.” 


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