Statement from Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and editor of The Future of Affirmative Action: New Paths to Higher Education Diversity after Fisher v. University of Texas:
“Colleges and universities should implement new models to achieve racial diversity on campus in the wake of the Supreme Court’s announcement today that it will rehear Fisher v. University of Texas on affirmative action.
“The good news is there are proven race-neutral policies that universities can and have already adopted to deliver more opportunities for disadvantaged students of all backgrounds to enroll in, and succeed at, college.
“Research by The Century Foundation found that seven out of 10 leading public universities were able to maintain, or even increase, the proportion of African American and Latino students by replacing race-based preferences with strategies that target socioeconomic inequality.
“No matter what happens in the Fisher case, reducing the deep class-based inequalities in college admissions should be a core goal of all colleges and universities in America. It’s completely unacceptable that for every 14 wealthy students at highly selective four-year colleges, there is just one low-income student enrolled.
“Continuing challenges to race-based affirmative action like the Fisher case present an opportunity for colleges and universities to rethink their approach to creating a diverse student body by incorporating socioeconomic factors into the admissions process.
“Giving a leg up in admissions to economically disadvantaged students of all races, eliminating legacy preferences, increasing financial aid, assisting students to transfer from community colleges to four-year degrees and admitting students at the top of every high school in the state, are just some of the ways that colleges have delivered racial and socioeconomic diversity without race-based affirmative action.
“Colleges need to get ahead of the courts on this issue and use new strategies to promote racial and socioeconomic diversity on campuses.”
Background: In 2013, the Supreme Court determined in Fisher v. University of Texas that the universities have ‘the ultimate burden of demonstrating, before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable, race-neutral alternatives do not suffice,’ but sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit to apply the rules in the case at hand.
A Fifth Circuit panel of three judges issued a 2-1 opinion in July 2014 which said University of Texas could continue to use racial preferences because the alternatives, in the court’s view, were not effective. That decision was then appealed to the Supreme Court, which today announced it would hear the case.