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Supreme Court Upholds Use of Race-Conscious Admissions at U. of Texas

[Updated (6/23/2016, 12:42 p.m.) with reactions.]

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin, putting an apparent end to one of the most closely watched cases in higher education.

Read the opinion.

The plaintiff in the case, Abigail N. Fisher, had accused the Austin campus in 2008 of discriminating against her after she was denied admission. She subsequently graduated from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.

The 4-to-3 ruling in the case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, No. 14-981, represents the second time that the court has weighed in on the Austin campus’s policy. When the justices decided Ms. Fisher’s case the first time, in 2013, they ordered the federal appeals court that had initially sided with the university to consider the case once more. The justices directed the lower court to subject the university’s race-conscious admissions policy to stricter scrutiny than it had done before.

3 Key Takeaways From the Supreme Court’s Decision on Race-Conscious Admissions

The Supreme Court agreed to hear Ms. Fisher’s case a second time after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit again said that the university’s admissions policy could stand. At oral arguments in December, the justices pressed both sides to show data demonstrating whether the policy was necessary.

Although the latest ruling puts an apparent end to Ms. Fisher’s long legal fight, court battles over colleges’ consideration of race in admissions are likely to continue. The Project on Fair Representation, an advocacy group that backed Ms. Fisher, has filed separate federal lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that seek an end to such practices.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has ruled that students applying to the University of Texas can be treated differently because of their race or ethnicity,” Ms. Fisher said in a statement quoted by The Washington Post. “I hope that the nation will one day move beyond affirmative action.”

In a statement, the president of the University of Texas at Austin, Gregory L. Fenves, said he was “thrilled and gratified” by the ruling. “The educational benefits of diversity for all students enhance the University of Texas at Austin, the higher-education community, and the nation,” he added.

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