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PR: New ED Directive Says Universities Must End Sex-Discriminatory Scholarships and Programs

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Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-3335


New ED Directive Says Universities Must End Sex-Discriminatory Scholarships and Programs

WASHINGTON / January 18, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has just released a new guidance that clarifies the Title IX ban on school scholarships and programs that discriminate on the basis of sex (1). The document, titled, “Questions and Answers Regarding OCR’s Interpretation of Title IX and Single Sex Scholarships, Clubs, and other Programs,” was released on Thursday.

The directive affirms the general principle that colleges should not impose sex-based preferences or restrictions, stating “a school may not administer scholarships, fellowships or other forms of financial assistance that impose a preference or restriction on the basis of sex, with limited exceptions.” (Question 3)

The document goes on to clarify that colleges generally may not:

  • Use a program title or description that implies a preference or restriction based on sex, such as the “Center for Women and Gender Equity Non-Traditional Scholarship” (Question 5)
  • Advertise or promote third-party scholarships, fellowships, or other forms of financial assistance that impose a sex-based preference or restriction (Question 6)
  • Separate or exclude individuals on the basis of sex from academic or extracurricular activities, with the exceptions of programs involving contact sports, ability grouping in physical education classes, and choruses. (Question 10)
  • Allow a school-recognized club or other program use a name that implies a sex-based preference or restriction, such as a student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (Question 11)

The guidance states that a university may offer sex-specific financial assistance as part of a remedial action effort, but only if the school is able to “clearly articulate why the particular sex-based scholarship or program was necessary to overcome the conditions in its own education program or activity which resulted in limited participation.” (Question 4)

In anticipation of the new directive, George Washington University ordered 23 student groups to amend their constitutions to comply with the school’s nondiscrimination policy. These groups include Girls Who Code and female-only service groups (2).

Over the past two years, the SAVE Title IX Equity Project has reviewed the websites of 346 universities and colleges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to identify illegal sex-specific scholarships. Overall, the review found that 68.5% of universities offered scholarships that discriminate against male students (3).

The Office for Civil Rights currently has 228 investigations underway to remedy these Title IX violations (4). A number of the institutions already have removed their discriminatory programs and scholarships (5).