(The Center Square) – Fresh off controversial rulings on abortion and vaccine mandates, the U.S. Supreme Court will now take up affirmative action in the college admissions process.
The race-based admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been specifically challenged in two separate cases that will now be combined before the high court. The ruling in this case could have a major impact on how colleges discriminate based on race, and whether schools that refuse to do so can receive federal funding.
This legal effort to overturn race-based admissions is led by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit group boasting 20,000 members consisting of “students, parents, and others who believe that racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.”
SFFA filed a lawsuit on the issue in 2014 against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, alleging the schools’ policies discriminate against white and Asian-American applicants. Both SFFA cases have been defeated in lower courts, but now the Supreme Court will consider those rulings.
Edward Blum, president of SFFA, welcomed the Supreme Court’s announcement.
“We are grateful the Supreme Court accepted these important cases for review. It is our hope that the justices will end the use of race as an admissions factor at Harvard, UNC and all colleges and universities,” Blum said. “Both the Pew Research Center and Gallup have released surveys which indicate that nearly 75% of Americans of all races do not believe race or ethnicity should be a factor in college admissions. In a multi-racial, multi-ethnic nation like ours, the college admissions bar cannot be raised for some races and ethnic groups but lowered for others.”
Under current law, colleges and universities consider race as a component of the admissions process to ensure a more diverse class. The defendants argue Supreme Court precedent is on their side, pointing to Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 case that allowed higher education institutions to consider race as a factor in admissions.
“Having failed to make the case that Harvard’s admissions practices contravene the court’s precedents governing the use of race in admissions, SFFA asks the court to overthrow them,” Harvard wrote in a filing last year. “But SFFA offers no legitimate justification for such an extraordinary step.”
A few dozen higher education institutions that have refused to submit to Title IX regulations around tracking students based on race have been given exemptions but also lost out on federal aid funding. A new ruling could have major implications for those schools, which argue that racial discrimination is wrong, regardless of the intended outcome.
“Harvard and the University of North Carolina have racially gerrymandered their freshman classes in order to achieve prescribed racial quotas,” Blum said. “Every college applicant should be judged as a unique individual, not as some representative of a racial or ethnic group.”
The affirmative action case is expected to be argued in the fall with a decision likely in 2023.
“Our nation cannot remedy past discrimination and racial preferences with new discrimination and different racial preferences,” Blum said.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court struck down a Biden administration vaccine mandate on private employers with 100 or more employees but let stand a vaccine mandate on health care workers who worked at facilities that receive Medicare and/or Medicaid dollars.