Affirmative Action Challenge and Supreme Court Guidance

Supreme Court Cases: Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and UNC

America’s higher education institutions have long recognized and cultivated the educational benefits of diversity. AACRAO believes holistic admissions practices are instrumental in helping institutions to identify students who are likely to thrive in their educational programs.

We will continue our efforts in support of equitable access to education. Our meetings, workshops, and digital platforms will continue to have space for institutions to work towards confronting implicit bias and addressing systemic inequities. We will provide support to institutions as they reframe their admissions plans in light of this legislation, while ensuring that the successes of minoritized students are not set back. And we will work to ensure that data-informed processes are built to develop and improve student support and programming. 

Read our statement on the rulings to learn more. 


The Supreme Court Speaks: Understanding the Implications of Race-Conscious Admission Decision

3:00-4:30 PM ET | JULY 19, 2023

AACRAO, NACAC, NASFAA have joined together to present a webinar on the SFFA v Harvard and UNC cases. This webinar will provide attendees with a streamlined, practical analysis of two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging race-conscious admission policies: Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and SFFA v. UNC.

Register Now

Looking Back, Planning Ahead

On February 2, 2023, AACRAO hosted a webinar that examines the pending U.S. Supreme cases where the central question is whether colleges and universities can continue to consider an applicant’s race and ethnicity as part of the holistic review process in admissions.

View Recording

AACRAO Process Examination Guidelines

AACRAO encourages members to begin to examine any admissions or recruitment practices that target populations of a specific race as well as their overall holistic/equity admissions practices.

To assist in this process, AACRAO is providing this guidance document to prepare our members for a possible major change in their ability to consider an applicant’s race and ethnicity as part of a holistic/equity review in admissions. 



SCOTUS Admissions Case Prompts New Scrutiny of Legacy Preferences

Nov 10, 2022, 15:18 PM
legacy id :
Summary : During last week's oral arguments for the Harvard and UNC cases, Supreme Court justices also debated the merits of legacy admissions.
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Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard separate oral arguments for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University cases challenging the institutions' race-conscious admissions practices. In addition to a focus on preference based on race, the court's discussions also focused much attention on the topic of preference based on alumni status, reported Inside Higher Ed. While justices will not issue a final decision in the case until next year, a majority of the court appeared likely in favor of banning or limit race-conscious admissions policy while letting preference for alumni status stand. However, some believe this to be a moot point, as colleges may feel pressured to abandon legacy admissions because of scrutiny that the practice may be inherently tied up with racial preferences. 

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed skepticism during the oral arguments, offering the following example about two hypothetical applicants to UNC:

The first applicant says, 'I'm from North Carolina. My family has been in this area for generations, since before the Civil War, and I would like you to know that I will be the fifth generation to graduate from the University of North Carolina. I now have that opportunity to do that, and given my family background, it's important to me that I get to attend this university. I want to honor my family's legacy by going to this school.' The second applicant says, 'I'm from North Carolina, my family's been in this area for generations, since before the Civil War, but they were slaves and never had a chance to attend this venerable institution. As an African American, I now have that opportunity, and given my family—family background, it's important to me to attend this university. I want to honor my family legacy by going to this school.'

While speaking to a lawyer for Students for Fair Admissions, the group suing UNC and Harvard over affirmative action, Justice Jackson said that "as I understand your no-race-conscious admissions rule, these two applicants would have a dramatically different opportunity to tell their family stories and to have them count. The first applicant would be able to have his family background considered and valued by the institution as part of its consideration of whether or not to admit him, while the second one wouldn't be able to because his story is in many ways bound up with his race and with the race of his ancestors."

In essence, Jackson argued that legacy admissions, at least those that extent several generations, overwhelmingly favor white applicants, reported Inside Higher Ed, a position with which Justice Neil Gorsuch appeared to agree.

James Murphy, a senior policy analyst at Education Reform Now, told Inside Higher Ed that he does not expect the court to rule on the issue of legacy admissions. However, he added that it may not matter.

"I don't know how any college president or Board of Trustees member can possibly preserve legacy preferences if the court tells colleges they can no longer consider the race of an applicant. Shame alone will make it necessary to drop legacy preferences."

On the other hand, Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government relations and public affairs of the American Council on Education, a group which filed a brief defending affirmative action, did not seem to think that the practice was going away any time soon.

"Legacy preferences have been around for a long time—so are the arguments in favor and the arguments against," Hartle told Inside Higher Ed.

Related Link

Inside Higher Ed

Michael Bilfinger
Categories :
  • Admissions and Recruitment
  • Advocacy
  • Affirmative Action Challenge
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Holistic Admissions
Tags :
  • Access and Equity
  • Affirmative Action
  • Affirmative Action Challenge
  • Diversity
  • Federal relations
  • in the courts
  • legacy admissions
  • Race
  • race-conscious
  • supreme court
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