What Are Minority Fellowships?

Daniel Liden

Minority fellowships are types of scholarships or financial aid that are awarded entirely or partially based on the minority status of the recipient. Such fellowships are given as financial aid for education or to provide funding for minorities who wish to take internships or research positions. The purpose of minority fellowships generally is to provide minorities with opportunities they may not have had otherwise and to introduce more diversity into workplaces. Many different groups, including African Americans, women, people with disabilities, and many other minority groups may be eligible for minority fellowships. Such fellowships are somewhat controversial, as some people believe that money for education, research, and other concerns should be awarded based on need and merit, not on race.

Minority fellowships are available for African American women and other minority groups.
Minority fellowships are available for African American women and other minority groups.

There are two main forms of minority fellowships: those that fund education and those that fund internships, work, or research. In some cases, these fellowships are awarded entirely on the basis of one's minority status, but it is often necessary for the recipient to maintain some minimum standards of academic or work performance. In other cases, minority fellowships are merit-based, but the competition for those fellowships is limited to a given minority group. Before receiving a fellowship, it is still necessary to apply and to be accepted to a given school or job, a process that may or may not take one's minority status into account.

People with disabilities are eligible for minority fellowships.
People with disabilities are eligible for minority fellowships.

Minority fellowships are intended to diversify workplaces and educational institutions, and to provide more opportunities to minorities, particularly those who cannot afford education on their own. Educational scholarships allow minorities to receive educations that enable them to enter into better jobs traditionally dominated by non-minority groups. Minority fellowships for education, then, allow minorities to better themselves through education and to introduce more diversity into high-paying jobs. This diversity is important because it allows for subtle changes in the workplace culture of such jobs and may even alter the goals and values of certain professions.

Much debate exists regarding the fairness of basing fellowships on one's gender, skin color, or other innate qualities. Some believe that, in many cases, there are people in non-minority groups who may need the money just as much, if not more, and that scholarships should be based on need. Others believe that minority fellowships only lead to more discrimination by giving money based primarily on race or gender. Proponents of minority fellowships often point out that the reason minorities need fellowships is that past oppression by majority groups prevented them from participating in education or in some jobs.

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