Affirmative Action Cases Could Broadly Impact College Admissions

Tim Goral's picture

A pair of Supreme Court cases that consider the constitutionality of using race as a factor in college admissions could have broad impacts on how universities across the country admit students.

On Monday the Supreme Court agreed to examine the constitutionality of a Michigan law that prohibits colleges in the state from considering race in public college admissions, and it is currently deliberating a similar case involving the University of Texas.

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Michigan law created burdens on racial minorities and that it violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection. But conservatives, including Michigan's Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, have argued that using race as an admissions factor is wrong, and that decisions should be based on merit.

While the Supreme Court is not scheduled to hear the Michigan case before October, meaning a ruling wouldn't be likely until next year, the court is currently considering a similar affirmative action case. Fisher v. University of Texas also questions whether colleges and universities can give preferential treatment to racial minorities in the admissions process. A ruling on that case is expected sometime between now and June.

The lower courts that previously examined the case have ruled in favor of affirmative action.

As Reuters noted, "That the court agreed to hear the Michigan case before deciding the Texas case is unusual. The court's normal practice is to wait until it has issued a ruling before agreeing to hear another case on a related issue. This may mean that the court is struggling to decide the Texas case, or that the ruling could be coming as soon as this week."

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