For many years, The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has given a test aimed at black students, the National Achievement Scholarship Program, originally called the the National Achievement Scholarship program for Outstanding Negro Students. It was a lower-standard version of the National Merit scholarship program, created because few blacks qualified for the National Merit scholarships. You could have defined other groups that were under-represented in National Merit scholarships, but they probably weren’t as numerous or as important a voting block. And racial favoritism was in vogue then, although not in the way it is today.
The program ended last fall: I didn’t notice it at the time because I was under the weather. You might guess that it’s because blacks have caught up and are now winning the ordinary National Merit Scholarships in rough proportion to their numbers, but that’s not the case. The NMSC is replacing it with a program that aids students that graduate from historically black colleges and universities – money that will help them pay off college loans or finance graduate study.
This strikes me as an odd decision. It can’t be that the administrators of the program have renounced racial favoritism in favor of fairness to individuals and utility maximization: we know that decision would be accompanied by one hundred million angels singing, which has not yet occurred. Generally, everyone expects every affirmative action program to last forever, or at least until this country destroys itself.
I wonder if they dropped the program because too many people were gaming it. There was never any test of blackness: as far as I know, anyone could claim it. I remember urging my little brother to check that box many years ago – [He didn’t and won anyhow]. So for all I know people named Magnusson were applying for and winning it, or perhaps the First Born of Mars. Maybe too many Nigerian immigrants were receiving it, probably after promising the administrators ten million dollars….
I guess that they figure that nobody would be crazy enough to attend Grambling or Howard in search of this money, so the new program should avoid the gaming.