Court May Limit Use of Race In College Admission Decisions

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, April 29, 2013

Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court set the terms for boosting college admissions of African Americans and other minorities, the court may be about to issue a ruling that could restrict universities' use of race in deciding who is awarded places.

The case before the justices was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white suburban Houston student who asserted she was wrongly rejected by the University of Texas at Austin while minority students with similar grades and test scores were admitted.

The ruling is the only one the court has yet to issue following oral arguments in cases heard in October and November, the opening months of the court's annual term which lasts until the early summer. A decision might come as early as Monday, before the start of a two-week recess.

As hard as it is to predict when a ruling will be announced, it is more difficult to say how it might change the law. Still, even a small move in the Texas case could mark the beginning of a new chapter limiting college administrators' discretion in using race in deciding on admissions.

For decades, dating back at least to the John F. Kennedy administration of the 1960s, U.S. leaders have struggled with what "affirmative action" should be taken to help blacks and other minorities. In the early years, it was seen as a way to remedy racial prejudice and discrimination; in the more modern era, as a way to bring diversity to campuses and workplaces.

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