The First Cohort of the UNCF Achievement Capstone Program

In the fall of 2015, the National Merit Scholarship Program announced that it was ending its National Achievement Scholarship Program. Founded in 1964 as the National Achievement Scholarship Program for Outstanding Negro Students, the scholarship program awarded about $108 million to more than 34,000 college-bound African American students over a 51-year period.

The National Achievement Scholarship Program was replaced with the Achievement Capstone Program, which is administered by the United Negro College Fund. But unlike the previous program that was earmarked for African American college-bound students, the new program offers a monetary award to students who graduate from historically Black colleges or universities or predominantly Black educational institutions to help them pay off college loans or to help them finance graduate study.

The first cohort of UNCF Achievement Capstone Program involves 37 students who each received an award of $2,500. Thus, the total amount of funds allocated under the program is less than $1 million. Next year, students from 87 eligible historically Black college and universities or predominantly Black educational institutions will be eligible for awards that will range from $2,000 to $5,000.

Each year, the National Merit Scholarship Program awards about 7,500 scholarships of $2,500, valued at nearly $19 million. African Americans are eligible to win these scholarships. But the initial eligibility for the scholarship competition is dependent on a high score on the PSAT test. While the National Merit Scholarship Corporation claims to have no data on the race of who receives their scholarships, data from the College Board shows that Blacks typically make up between 1 and 2 percent of the very top scorers on these types of standardized tests. Thus, it appears that very little of the financial aid earmarked by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for college-bound students will find its way to African Americans.

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