U.S. Issues Guide on Race-Conscious Admissions After Supreme Court Rules

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice said on Tuesday that colleges may continue to use “appropriately tailored” admissions programs that consider race as one of several factors as part of an effort to achieve the benefits of having a diverse student body, absent any restrictions in state law that would prevent them from doing so.

The departments issued the new guidance, in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter, in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month that upheld voter-approved bans on race-conscious admissions at public colleges. In that case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the justices affirmed the constitutionality of a Michigan ballot measure barring the use of racial preferences in college admissions.

The new document follows previous guidance that the departments released after last year’s Supreme Court ruling in another affirmative-action case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

The decision in the Schuette case, the letter states, “leaves intact the court’s prior holdings recognizing that institutions of higher education and elementary and secondary schools may use all legally permissible methods to achieve their diversity goals.”

In a state where a provision like the ban upheld in the Schuette case is in effect, the letter continues, “you should consult with an appropriate legal official, such as your state’s attorney general, with regard to your institution’s or agency’s ability to take actions consistent with these guidance documents.”

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