3 White Students Sue University of Oklahoma Alleging School Awards Black Students More Financial Aid

The plaintiffs claim they would have received more financial aid if the university didn't racially discriminate in favor of Black students.
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Published on May 20, 2024
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  • The lawsuit alleges that a University of Oklahoma official told a plaintiff she would have gotten more financial aid if she was African American.
  • According to the lawsuit, race-based scholarships fall under the U.S. Supreme Court's 2023 race-conscious admissions ban.
  • The lawsuit claims data shows the university gave more grant aid to Black students than to other student groups.

Three white students are suing the University of Oklahoma (OU), alleging the school discriminates against white students through race-based financial aid decisions.

Law firm Cooper & Kirk, alongside the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), filed a class-action lawsuit May 15 on behalf of students Kayla Savage, Logan Rhines, and Brayden Johnson. They are seeking compensation for any and all financial aid that they have been wrongfully deprived of because of their race.

The lawsuit claims that the university's race-based financial aid processes violate the 2023 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that banned the consideration of race in college admissions.

The lawsuit follows a similar interpretation stated in a letter Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent to that state's college and university leaders. The letter said the majority opinion considers race-based college scholarships to be disguised race-conscious admissions policies.

It also claims the university's financial aid practices violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit against OU cites an alleged statement from a university official, an interpretation that race-based scholarships are considered admissions policies, and an analysis of public data finding that Black students received more grant aid than other student groups.

Savage, a senior who self-identifies as white and non-Hispanic, transferred to OU after community college and received no financial aid from the university.

The lawsuit claims an official from the University of Oklahoma's Office of Admissions told Plaintiff Savage that financial aid was generally not available to students like her, but would have been if she were African American.

The University of Oklahoma takes seriously its obligation to students and to properly administer financial aid, a university spokesperson told BestColleges in an emailed statement. While we cannot comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation, our policies and procedures adhere to applicable laws.

Rhines, a junior and first-generation student who self-identifies as white and non-Hispanic, received one merit scholarship for $1,000, according to the lawsuit.

Johnson, a self-identified white, non-Hispanic undergraduate who is in an accelerated master's degree program, received a $4,000 per-semester merit scholarship and other aid totaling $2,750 per year.

The lawsuit claims that each student would have received additional financial aid from the University of Oklahoma if the defendants did not engage in racial discrimination when awarding financial aid.

Also, according to the lawsuit, a statistical analysis of publicly available data shows Black students received more institutional grant aid from the university than other students, even when controlling for family income.

The lawsuit says this analysis proves the extent of discrimination stemming from affirmative action policies in university grants that benefits some groups of students and harms others.

The lawsuit is another challenge to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies in the state.

Last December, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order banning public state colleges and universities from using funds for DEI programs.

In Oklahoma, we're going to encourage equal opportunity, rather than promising equal outcomes, Stitt said in a press release.

Encouraging our workforce, economy, and education systems to flourish means shifting focus away from exclusivity and discrimination, and toward opportunity and merit. We're taking politics out of education and focusing on preparing students for the workforce.

The executive order also banned DEI education, training, loyalty oaths, mandatory pronoun disclosure, and DEI statements on job applications. Colleges have until the end of May to comply and eliminate or dismiss non-critical personnel in DEI campus departments.