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How will the Supreme Court Ban on Affirmative Action Change College Admissions

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has recently addressed the issue of colleges using race as a factor in their admission decisions. This decision has sparked significant debate and discussion among educators, policymakers, and the public. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of the Supreme Court's ruling and explore its implications for college admissions. For many years, colleges and universities in the United States have considered race as one of the factors in their holistic review process for selecting students. The aim was to promote diversity and create a more inclusive learning environment. However, this practice has faced legal challenges, leading to the Supreme Court's involvement. In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the principle that colleges and universities can consider race as a factor in their admissions process, but with certain limitations. The court emphasized that race-conscious admissions policies must be narrowly tailored and must undergo strict scrutiny to ensure they meet constitutional standards.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the universities had committed unlawful discrimination by categorizing students by race and giving preferences to Black and Hispanic applicants.

“The Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause,” Roberts wrote, referring to the provision of the 14th Amendment that bars the government from discriminating on the basis of race. “Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.”

The chief justice stressed in his ruling, however, that the court was not entirely prohibiting schools from taking account of applicants’ experiences related to race as long as such factors aren’t a subterfuge for explicit consideration of race.

The court's decision clarified that while diversity is a compelling interest in higher education, colleges must exhaust all race-neutral alternatives before considering race as a factor. Additionally, the court emphasized that colleges must regularly reassess the necessity of using race in their admissions policies and ensure that they are not unduly burdening applicants of any particular race. The Supreme Court's decision has both immediate and long-term implications for college admissions. On one hand, it reaffirms the importance of diversity in higher education and acknowledges that race can be a legitimate factor in achieving this goal. On the other hand, it places a higher burden on colleges to demonstrate that their race-conscious admissions policies are necessary and narrowly tailored. Prior to this decision Nine states have banned the use of race in admissions policies at public colleges and universities: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington. In briefs filed with the Supreme Court, the University of California, and the University of Michigan - top public college systems from states that have outlawed race-conscious admissions - said they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on alternative programs intended to improve diversity, but that those efforts have fallen far short of goals.


In predicting the overall impact on college admissions, we can look at outcomes at the colleges that have not used race as a consideration in the admissions process while attempting to maintain a diverse student body. Some alternative strategies for maintaining diversity include going test-optional, focusing on outreach in underserved areas, greater need-based grants, and enhancing college transition resources. Students can discuss race and their experience with discrimination in their personal statement essay.

However, like California and other states that have previously banned race as a factor in admissions, maintaining diversity will be a challenge for colleges that relied on race, and it will take time to develop strategies that successfully maintain a diverse student body.

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