Friday, September 26, 2014

Miss America Scholarships

There's a lot of discussion on and praise for the John Oliver piece on Miss America Scholarships, and with good reason.

But what I haven't seen is the actual scholarship amount awarded. It turns out that's an easy number to calculate, because Miss America lists the names and amounts of all their scholarship winners. It was $323,000 in 2013 (for 2012 contestants).

$323,000 is not the amount actually distributed, however. For instance, MIss Vermont Chelsea Ingram was awarded $3,000, but she was (and still is) a college graduate with a full time job and according to the scholarship rules, unless she's enrolled in at least 9 credit hours a semester, she won't receive anything. Lop off Miss Illinois Megan Ervin's $8,000, too, and keep working your way down the list.

By my unscientific sampling, then, at least 15% of the scholarships weren't used, so generously, they awarded $275,000 in scholarships.

Even John Oliver got it wrong. At $275,000 Miss America is not the largest provider of scholarships for women in America. The Society of Women Engineers, which was called out in the Oliver piece, disbursed over $700,000 in scholarships so far this year. And unlike Miss America, I don't think they're lying.

If you're doing the math, by the way, Miss America's $45 million claim is exaggerated by 6,363.7%