Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Upholding Consideration of Race/Ethnicity in College Admissions

Supreme Court affirms that considering race is a way to achieve educational benefits that flow from student body diversity.

Today the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of public universities to consider race and ethnicity in college admissions. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion stated, “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.”

The Campaign for College Opportunity applauds the Court’s ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin for sending a clear message that there is no proxy for race when it comes to ensuring a diverse student body that is essential to our nation’s economic future.

In the twenty years since California banned the consideration of race in university admissions with the passage of Proposition 209, racial inequities in college access have persisted and grown over time. In the last twenty years, admission rates for Blacks and Latinos at the University of California (UC) declined by 37 and 32 points, respectively, compared to 25 points for Whites. And, despite a quadrupling of Latino applicants to UC Berkeley and UCLA, there was relatively little change in the number admitted between 1994 and 2015. The mismatch between applicants and admits is evidenced by the fact that less than one-third of Black applicants gain admission to seven of the UC’s nine undergraduate campuses and less than one-third of Latino applicants gain admission to six of the nine UC campuses.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is a message to California and all state’s that the consideration of race in college admissions is essential to protecting and ensuring access to higher education. The ban on affirmative action in California has hurt the ability of Latinos and Blacks to find their rightful spots at our state universities and that hurts our state’s economic future,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

The Campaign for College Opportunity will continue to support efforts in California to allow for the consideration of race in college admissions, including overturning Proposition 209, and will continue to report out on the status of underrepresented minorities – Blacks, Latinos, and groups within the Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian communities – through the State of California Higher Education series.

“When one in two children under the age of 18 is Latino in our state, it’s irresponsible to not do everything in our power to ensure equitable access to a college education that in turn provides top notch talent to the industries driving our economy,” concluded Siqueiros.

Read the entire ruling here.
Read our Prop 209 brief here.
Listen to Vice President of External Affairs & Operations, Audrey Dow, give perspective on the ruling with KPCC here.
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