Revisiting the Supreme Court Race-Conscious Admission Decision

August 4, 2023
  • Academic Policy
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Enrollment Management
Photograph of the interior of the U.S. Supreme Court

By Jill OrcuttGlobal Lead of AACRAO Consulting

You are invited to take this opportunity to be a courageous and bold leader in higher education. I hope that many of you were able to view the national webinar hosted by AACRAO, NASFAA, and NACAC on July 19, 2023, presented by Art Coleman, Education Counsel, and panelists Angel Pérez, NACAC; Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, Retired UCLA; Derek Kindle, UW Madison; Vern Granger, University of Connecticut and moderated by Karen McCarthy, NASFAA. If you did not, the webinar is worth your time with the presenter and panelists sharing how the ruling impacts the work in enrollment, but also key strategies for next steps.

The majority opinion of the Court is that “Universities may define their missions as they see fit.” “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life…” The “touchstone of an individual’s identity [must be with respect to] challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned”—not the color of their skin. 20-1199 Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (06/29/2023) (

Policy and Procedure Review

Let’s invest in the future by reaffirming our commitment to access, equity, and diversity by working with our administration, legal counsels, and academic colleagues to complete a comprehensive review of the mission statement and all policies and processes within enrollment management and ensure they are aligned with the mission of the institution. Be an advocate for reviewing all the policies and processes across the institution. Policies and procedures must be documented to show alignment with the institutional mission.

Many institutions will need to make the shift from students checking a box on an admissions application to students sharing qualities associated with their experience of race in their life journey relevant to their institutional mission. Be prepared, start now to review your enrollment policies which include recruitment and outreach, admission, yield activities, etc. Always document the alignment between enrollment policies with your institutional mission. The court did not address scholarships and financial aid, outreach and recruitment, pipeline and pathways programs, data collection, race-neutral strategies, and employment.

Communication with Students

Authentic communication with your prospective and currently enrolled students and their families and supporters is vital. Communicate that students are encouraged to apply and are welcome on your campus. Demonstrate that you care about them, they are wanted and will be supported.


Provide leadership at your institution or organization. Invest in human and financial resources and in your financial aid packages. When documenting policies and procedures, define the purpose, intended outcome, and impact on student success. Engage all stakeholders and ground decisions in institutional experience and research. Prepare appropriate training materials for staff, students, and applicant readers. Get involved and help your unit and institution be successful. Collaborate with your colleagues across the institution and higher education. Utilize the guidance, support and mentorship of colleagues.

Commitment to Equity, Access, and Diversity in Admissions

Demonstrate your commitment to diversity by helping to prepare students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society. Skills needed in today’s global environment requires exposure to diverse ideas and communities. You can make a difference.

Contact AACRAO Consulting AACRAO Consulting today for a comprehensive review of enrollment units and for assistance with your holistic admission planning and implementation.

Resources can be found at AACRAO Research & Publications

  • Holistic Admissions: Predicting the Likelihood for Student Success
  • SEM in Action: Implementing and Sustaining Your Plan


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