Some scholarships across Texas universities are frozen or being reworked after DEI bans

Memorial scholarships, with which many are funded through donations, are the hardest hit – needing to adjust criteria.

By Kristen CabreraJune 18, 2024 1:36 pm,

After the Texas Legislature passed a ban on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, also known as DEI, universities across the state have taken different steps to try to meet the Legislature’s guidelines.

Aside from programs and departments at universities, it’s also affecting scholarships. Many have had to be changed or are frozen while being reevaluated. 

The Dallas Morning News’ Marcela Rodrigues has been following this story. She spoke with Texas Standard on what’s being looked at and which scholarships are seeing the biggest impact. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Well, why are universities across Texas reevaluating their scholarships?

Marcela Rodrigues: So many of these scholarships were designated specifically for people of certain races or genders.

So some of them were specifically for women – women studying engineering, for example, or for women, who are athletes. Some were specifically for Hispanic or Black men. And so the new Texas law bans programs that are related to diversity and programs that are specific for a race or gender.

Despite the fact that initially scholarships weren’t the target of the legislation, universities are reviewing these scholarships as well. And as of now, what we know is that many of them are on hold.

Well, what reports did you find in order to nail down what’s happening at universities?

So we were able to obtain documents coming from lawmakers and the universities. So some Democratic lawmakers have been asking universities to report what has changed, basically, and what programs have been eliminated.

And through these documents, we saw not only many centers and divisions/departments were shut down and people have been terminated and lost their jobs, but we also learned that there are over 100 scholarships across Texas – most of them from the Texas A&M system, a lot of them from the University of Texas system – that have been frozen, put on hold or are being modified. And those who were being modified are often about eliminating the requirement that it would go to a specific person, of a specific gender or race.

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So is this only affecting one type of scholarships, like athletics, or more academic?

Academic, athletics – all kinds of scholarships, as long as they were designed for a specific person.

So a couple of examples that we found were memorial scholarships. So those are usually when a family or community tries to honor someone who has passed away. And so one case we found was of two Black female athletes who tragically died in a car crash. And their families came together and wanted to honor them and have a scholarship that came through donations, by the way – not taxpayer money. And then it was supposed to be for a female athlete interested in basketball. That is one of the scholarships that’s on hold right now.

And so we have been hearing back from universities slowly. And they’re telling us, you know, at Texas A&M, there was one – it was a biotechnology scholarship. And that one had diversity in the title. And so they are removing that part of it to maintain the scholarship.

So they are trying to keep it without the word “diversity” in it in order to comply with the legislation. So we’re still trying to figure it out – how many have changed and how many will be able to continue just with some kind of modification. But we are still waiting to see how many, exactly, will be impacted in the long run.

Well, what will happen to scholarships that cannot be changed?

I mean, we don’t know. We are waiting to see what happens.

I think a lot of the families who donate money to these scholarships hope that the scholarships can go on, hopefully with the requirement that they initially intended – but if not, that they could still exist so they could still support students who need scholarships and financial aid to attend college.

But as of now, we don’t know of any that have been completely eliminated. But it remains to be seen.

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