Texas A&M System approves $100 million scholarship fund to address ‘diversity issues’

The Academic Building on the Texas A&M University campus on March 26, 2018. Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents on Monday unanimously approved the creation of a $100 million scholarship fund to help the system’s 11 universities address “diversity issues,” as well as bolster aid meant for students who are economically disadvantaged or in the first generation of their families to attend college.

The aid comes in the middle of the economic crisis spurred by COVID-19, which has left many families out of work. It also comes as protests continue in Texas and nationwide over police brutality and systemic racism. At the A&M System's flagship campus in College Station, protests in particular have sprouted over the presence of a statue honoring Sul Ross, a former Texas governor and president of A&M who served as a general in the Confederate army.

A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said Monday that the fund had been "in the works for some time."

"The goal ... is to make A&M system's 11 universities look like Texas," Sharp said. "Though system-wide the universities are within a few percentage points of reflecting the state's demographics, the student population on some individual campuses is not where we want it to be."

Sharp also emphasized the need for A&M's student population to reflect that of the state. Currently, white students comprise more than half of the student population at A&M's College Station campus, while black students make up less than 4%, according to 2019 data. Hispanic and Asian students students make up 21% and 8% of the student population, respectively.

The program will disburse $10 million annually over 10 years, with priority given to students who are low income, first-generation and from geographically underrepresented regions of the state. Each campus will be engaged in fundraising to help support this effort, according to a press release.

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