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U.S. Supreme Court to Tackle Race on College Applications

U.S. Supreme Court to rule on race in college admissions.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

June 30, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court to Tackle Race on College Applications
The U.S. Supreme Court is on a roll these days. They promised on Monday, June 29, that they would reopen a case that tackles affirmative action throughout the college application process. The case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin was first brought to court in 2008 and is now being repealed in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the judges will hear the case in the fall and likely make a decision in early 2016, according to Inside Higher Ed. Abigail Fisher, a white student, originally applied to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. She was denied admission, and her claim is that race was a factor. She has since gone on to attend and graduate from Louisiana State University, as reported by The Washington Post. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled over this case in 2013 and applied “strict scrutiny” in the college admissions process, requiring colleges to be cautious in how they used race to determine their admissions decisions. However, Inside Higher Ed states that it was brought to the lower courts during an appeals process in 2014, where the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions plan was upheld.

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It is still unknown whether the Supreme Court will make a decision specifically for this case or for college admissions as a whole. Experts in the industry are even predicting that race in college admissions could become a hot topic in the presidential election in 2016. If the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling to the entire process of college admissions, it will have many implications for not only admissions but the student bodies at colleges across the country.

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Are high schools so diverse that they will create diverse student bodies at colleges? Will minority students at low-income schools be able to compete in the admissions process with white, upper class students at private high schools? Do colleges need to diversify by race, income and region in order to provide students with perspectives from other backgrounds in class discussion, group projects and extracurricular organizations? Should minority students be admitted based on their ability to fill a certain quota – or should they be considered on merit alone? Currently, the state of Texas guarantees that the top 10% of students at each high school receive admission into their choice of Texas’ public colleges and universities, according to Inside Higher Ed. The state boasts a large Hispanic population, and some of its high schools have a minority enrollment of 90 – 100%, which would help a great deal towards the diversification of student bodies at Texas’ public colleges. However, not every state in the U.S. has this policy or high schools with such a majority minority enrollment. If the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision for the entirety of college admissions, is it fair to make a general ruling for all colleges in a case for which the circumstances might be drastically different than other states and college student bodies? Obviously, the potential ruling by the Supreme Court brings a lot of questions and uncertainty. At Fastweb, we’ll be following the U.S. Supreme Court’s case and decision later this year and next year. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on race in the college admissions process?

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To get more information on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Fifth Circuit’s decision in 2014, which will provide a look at where the case currently stands, see Inside Higher Ed.

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