Money quote from a new report, "The Distribution of Grants and Scholarships by Race" (pdf):
White students receive more than three-quarters (76 percent) of all institutional merit-based scholarship and grant funding, even though they represent less than two-thirds (62 percent) of the student population…
Kay Steiger echoes the report's author, Mark Kantrowitz, that "this might be because scholarship committees are overcorrecting for the idea that there are a plethora of scholarships for various minorities." Yglesias considers other factors:
Schools want to produce two things. One is rich alumni who give them money, and the other is high ratings from US News and World Report. … And since high school seniors from high socioeconomic status families tend to already be better-prepared for college than kids from low-socioeconomic status families, that means that financial aid resources naturally flow to the high-socioeconomic status students.
Freakonomics points to another possible explanation:
In attempting to understand why the numbers stand as they do, Kantrowitz postulates that the creators of scholarships look for recipients like themselves. As an example, minorities are less likely to compete in sports like swimming, and downhill skiing, while many scholarships are geared towards these pursuits.