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U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision on Race and Affirmative Action

U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on race and affirmative action will not affect most students, reports Paideia Times.

by Paideia Times

Supreme Court Restricts Use of Affirmative Action in College Admissions 

In a landmark—but long expected—ruling on two related cases, the U.S. Supreme Court, on June 29, effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions as we’ve known it.

The highest court in the land ruled that the race-conscious admissions policies practiced by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The ruling was 6–3 against UNC and 6–2 against Harvard. The votes were split along ideological grounds, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the conservative members in the majority, and the liberals dissenting. While the Court banned the use of racial quotas in admissions, it didn’t close the door entirely on racial considerations.

According to a new survey, slightly more than half of Americans—52 percent—approve of the Supreme Court’s decision to restrict the use of race as a factor in college admissions; 32 percent disapprove. Universities are still free to consider race-neutral alternatives that correlate with race or that advance the goal of racial diversity—for instance, instead of considering the race of the applicant, universities can consider the racial demographics of the applicant’s high school or the neighborhood the applicant grew up in.

Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, expects five years of chaos before higher education fully adjusts to the new legal landscape, as schools explore new ways to maintain diversity.

After the Supreme Court Ruling: What Comes Next? 

Liberal justices Sonia M. Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson slammed the Supreme Court majority’s affirmative action decision, writing in dissents that the ruling would have devastating effects on equity in higher education. Brown Jackson didn’t mince words, calling the ruling “a tragedy for us all.” But ultimately the Court’s ruling on affirmative action could make little difference for the average college student.

Most students—of all races—who apply to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvard University, and other elite institutions are rejected in any case. At UNC, only two in ten applicants were admitted for the fall of 2021, according to the most recent federal data. The odds of enrolling at Harvard were even slimmer: just 4 percent.

In an analysis done by The Chronicle of Higher Education, of 3,160 degree-granting two- and four-year institutions across the country, only 68—or 2 percent—admit less than 25 percent of applicants.

Another study, however, found that states that have already banned race-conscious admissions, like California and Michigan, noted a “cascade effect,” where the most selective public universities saw an immediate drop-off in Black, Hispanic, and Native American enrollment, causing less selective schools to see an uptick in those same demographics.

Will Essays Become a New Loophole to Ask About Race? 

Although the Supreme Court affirmative action ruling narrowed the use of race in admissions, it left some wiggle room where students can still discuss their race in application essays, which experts say will become an increasingly important part of the application process.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise.” But he went on to warn that colleges should not use personal statements as a backdoor way to ask students about their race and admit them on that basis.

Some experts predict the Court’s decision will put an “extra burden” on essays in admissions evaluations. Harvard, which was at the center of the lawsuit, has already replaced last year’s single optional essay with five required short essays, designed to allow the admissions committee to see each applicant as a “whole person.”

Originally published by Paideia Times. Republished with permission.

For more School Reform News.

Paideia Times
Paideia Times
Paideia Times is a news quarterly for higher education trustees.


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