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Justice with Jessica: Affirmative action in colleges could end, far-reaching impact possible

Affirmative action in colleges could end, far-reaching impact possible
college enrollment
Posted at 8:42 AM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 10:42:31-05

As the end of the school year looms, many Colorado high school seniors are working on their college applications.

The way that the college admissions system works could be changing at many universities soon, though.

The New York Times estimates that about 200 elite colleges could be immediately impacted if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to ban race-conscious admissions this year.

Click here to see a breakdown of our country's most elite institutions, some of which may be impacted by the Supreme Court's decision.

Justice with Jessica: Affirmative action in college admissions

Historically, the idea of race-conscious admissions gained traction during the civil rights movement, when students pushed colleges to be "more representative of American society."

In race-conscious admissions, universities consider race as one of many factors in deciding whether to admit a student. Race is not the determining factor in these admissions decisions. Harvard College is known as setting the model for that type of admissions system.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that race-conscious admissions were constitutional.

The case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard argues that the policy favors Black and Hispanic students and hurts Asian and white students.

SFFA claims in part that Harvard's policy discriminated against Asian American applicants in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Arvin Vohra, co-author if the book "Invitation to the Ivies," elaborates on the argument.

"What has been argued, is that among Asian-Americans, and among white people, there is a sense of discrimination going in almost like a different direction," Vohra said. "Essentially, the idea is almost the problem (a lack of diversity on elite college campuses) has been solved, and so now we're kind of overcorrecting in the opposite direction."

Tyrone Glover, civil rights attorney and president of the Sam Cary Bar Association, doesn't agree.

"The way that I think the numbers have borne out, especially when you look at Harvard — there's no support for those arguments," he said.

In Harvard's 2024 class, this is the breakdown of students: "14.8 percent identifying as African American/Black, 24.5 percent as Asian American, 12.7 percent as Latinx, 1.8 percent as Native American, and 0.4 percent as native Hawaiian."

Glover said if race-conscious admissions are banned, selective colleges could become less diverse.

"I think what we've seen is that when you have these race-neutral policies that are attempting to do the same thing as this more holistic approach (race-conscious admissions), it doesn't work," he said. "What we're going to ultimately see is our universities, you know, they already don't necessarily reflect our community, but that contrast is going to be able to become much more stark.”

The Supreme Court has a conservative super-majority deciding the case. Many legal experts believe the court will throw out race-conscious admissions, and that other affirmative action programs may be on the chopping block in the future.

Metropolitan State University of Denver Professor of Africana Studies Devon Wright said the possible lack of diversity could be limiting for students in elite college when they enter the post-collegiate world.

When the Supreme Court likely issues its ruling in June, Wright said there will be very strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

"A lot of students might be very, very shocked and angry," Wright said. "And so if that anger comes about, I would say the best way to harness that anger is to register to vote, and show up and vote."

Metropolitan State University blanketly guarantees admission for applicants who have hit certain criteria (such as having a 2.0 GPA in high school) so it, and schools like it, wouldn't be directly impacted by this Supreme Court decision.

The race-conscious admissions concern goes beyond skin color.

According to the National Coalition for Women & Girls in Education, the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the constitution does not prevent states from banning race or gender-conscious admissions. Some activists are worried that anti-affirmative action groups could next take aim at programs that help women of all races receive education.

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