National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) established the National Achievement® Scholarship Program in 1964, contemporaneously with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, specifically to encourage Black American youth to continue their education. NMSC conducted the privately financed academic competition from 1965 to 2015. The program's defining purposes were to:
- honor scholastically promising Black American high school students and increase their educational opportunities; and
- provide National Achievement Scholarships for college undergraduate study to a substantial number of the most outstanding participants in each annual competition.
The National Achievement Scholarship Program was created to increase educational opportunities for academically accomplished Black American students and encourage colleges to broaden their recruiting efforts. The program also strove to encourage academic success among Black Americans of all ages by creating visible role models and providing a goal toward which younger students could work.
In the half century since the National Achievement Scholarship Program was created, more than 4.6 million Black Americans have entered the program, and approximately 228,000 have received program recognition. Of those honored, more than 34,000 of the most outstanding participants were chosen to receive Achievement Scholarship® awards worth about $108 million. Currently, about 2,800 of these young men and women are undergraduates at 300 colleges and universities across the nation.
With the conclusion of the 2015 program, the National Achievement Scholarship Program transitioned to a new program. In 2016, NMSC forged a new relationship with UNCF, the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. After NMSC has met the financial obligations of all National Achievement Scholarships awarded through the 2015 competition, including four-year awards, it will grant the remaining National Achievement Scholarship Program funds to UNCF, which will carry on the name and legacy of the National Achievement Scholarship Program through the newly designed Achievement Capstone Program. The new program, which will be administered by UNCF and underwritten by NMSC, will honor and award financial assistance to high-achieving, underrepresented college graduates.
Since the National Achievement Scholarship Program funds are being redirected to be used for awards for college graduates, Black American high school students no longer have the opportunity to enter the National Achievement Scholarship Program and compete for Achievement Scholarship awards. However, they can still compete for Merit Scholarship® awards when they enter the National Merit® Scholarship Program, and they may be eligible to receive awards from UNCF once they graduate from college.
High school participation and sponsor support
NMSC is sincerely grateful to educators in high schools across the U.S. who have assisted in providing an opportunity for Black American students to participate in the National Achievement Scholarship Program. NMSC would also like to thank sponsors of National Achievement Scholarships for their support and encourage current sponsors in both the National Merit Program and the National Achievement Program, as well as other corporations, foundations, and business organizations, to support this new, worthwhile endeavor with UNCF.
Over the past half century, National Achievement Scholars have made significant contributions to society, and have become astronauts, neurosurgeons, educators, and musicians. They have worked toward the betterment of the United States through service in our military, our classrooms, and the nation's capital. The legacy of the National Achievement Scholarship Program is great, and we at NMSC are proud of its history. We celebrate 51 successful years of the National Achievement Scholarship Program and look forward to our partnership with UNCF to continue this rich legacy.
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