ST. LOUIS — According to new data released by the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), almost 80 percent of scholarships given to law school students aren't based on need. 

In addition, more than two-thirds of white students who were surveyed said they received a scholarship compared to less than half of African-American students who were given aid.

Aaron Taylor, who has been an associate professor at the St. Louis University School of Law since 2011, explained why the LSSSE study was conducted.

“The motivation behind the study was a desire to track the types of scholarships awarded by law schools and the most likely recipients of those scholarships," Taylor told the St. Louis Record.

He said that there have been a number of studies completed for undergraduate students who receive aid, but studies covering law school scholarships have been lacking until now.  

“Therefore, we introduced a series of questions on the LSSSE Survey in 2016 to elicit this information,” Taylor said. “The bulk of law school scholarships are awarded based on LSAT-driven conceptions of merit, and students who are more likely to come from privileged backgrounds are most likely to receive these scholarships. These findings align squarely with the undergraduate research."

Taylor explained why this conclusion is the case. He said that standardized tests like the SAT or LSAT are associated with family and income and wealth.

"The wealthier the family, the higher the score tends to be,” he said.

As concluded by the research, Taylor said that white students have a tendency to score higher on these standardized tests compared to black and Latino students.

Additionally, he said that students whose parents attended college and graduated usually scored better than children whose parents did not. This automatically gives students a disadvantage to receive scholarships and creates a system that is not equal.

“Children from privileged backgrounds benefit from the expansive educational opportunities family wealth makes possible,” Taylor said.

He said these types of opportunities often range from private school educations to test prep courses.

Taylor also noted that if a student scores a higher test grade, it allows them to potentially receive a higher amount of college scholarships because higher tests scores are more supported by scholarships than low ones.

He said that the survey should prompt law schools to think about whether their scholarship policies are equitable for all students in terms of need. 

“Law schools (should) consider the impacts of their scholarship policies on their students and work to ensure that these awards are made equitably and with regard to student financial need, as opposed to wealth and privilege,” he said.

Taylor is supportive of these types of studies since they provide information to students, colleges and faculties. It also lies in his teaching interests, as he focuses mostly on education law and legal ethics.

According to his profile at St. Louis University School of Law, Taylor aims to contextualize his main subject matter by considering the political, economic and sociological influences with the goal of offering interdisciplinary solutions to problems and to help his students to find solutions, as well.

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