The U.S. Supreme Court has voted to strike down affirmative action — meaning colleges and universities will no longer be able to consider race as a factor in admissions decisions. Justices ruled that affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which ensures equality between all U.S. citizens. Here’s how the ruling will affect students.
First up, what is affirmative action?
Affirmative action refers to the use of policies, legislation and programs used to improve educational and employment opportunities for members of marginalized groups. It considers an applicant’s race, sex, gender, religion, national origin and disability to ensure that a group gets equal access to opportunities.
Affirmative action policies largely started being introduced in the 1960s to help combat discrimination in the workplace. In 2003, the Supreme Court allowed schools to consider race when making admissions decisions.
Supporters of affirmative action have noted that these policies help underrepresented groups have equal access to high education institutions. Critics have argued that affirmative action is a form of racial discrimination against people who aren’t part of marginalized groups.
Nine states have previously banned affirmative action at public universities, including Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.
What effect will it have on college admissions applications?
One of the immediate effects of the ruling is that many students are reconsidering applying to competitive colleges, as applicants are scrambling on how to proceed with their applications. Analysis conducted by The Washington Post concluded that enrollment by minorities would most likely decrease at top institutions.
David Hawkins, the chief education and policy officer for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, urged students not to be discouraged.
“Colleges are looking for a diverse group of students, and the decision should not discourage students at all from applying,” he said, according to USA Today. “We will be swimming against the tide, and it can be discouraging. But we also want to ensure that students know it won’t change the fact that colleges are looking for them.”
Applicants should also know they can still discuss how race has affected their life via their college admissions essays.
“It’s not that you can’t tell your own stories, stories of your racial experiences, about your identity or your background,” Anurima Bhargava, a civil rights lawyer who formerly served with the U.S. Department of Justice, said. “How universities are going to take account of that is still going to be a question for them, but it’s not that students can’t tell those kinds of stories.”
How the ruling could impact HBCUs.
Some HBCUs are expecting an increase in college applications following the Supreme Court ruling, according to Axios.
“As the largest organization exclusively supporting the Black college Community, we invite allies to join us in our ambitious mission to create a more equitable society,” Harry L. Williams, the president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an organization that supports public HBCUs, said in a statement.
“Since their inception, HBCUs have always been agents of equity, opportunity, and excellence in education. Going forward, HBCUs will continue to serve as vehicles of upward mobility for their students, engines of economic growth for their respective communities and a locus of intellectual discourse and scholarship on issues ranging from genetic research to social justice.”
A concern is a lack of funding for HBCUs, which have already seen an increase in enrollment in recent years. According to Eddy Carder, an assistant professor of constitutional law and philosophy at Prairie View A&M, schools will need additional resources, including building, space and technology.