Supreme Court Could Overturn Affirmative Action in College Admissions

(NPR) On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing two cases – one involving Harvard University, and the other the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – challenging the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions policies.

In the Harvard case, the court will consider whether the school discriminated against Asian American students in the admissions process. With UNC, the court will consider whether the school is using race-conscious admissions in a limited enough manner.

Race in admissions has been the subject of plenty of lawsuits – including at the Supreme Court level. And if the court decides to reverse more than 40 years of legal precedent, it could impact the way race is used in higher education beyond just admissions.

The last time the court ruled on affirmative action was in 2016 when it said colleges can consider race in admissions. But the makeup of the court looks very different today than it did back then.

“I can’t think of that many people who are expecting race-conscious admissions policies to be upheld,” says Dominique Baker, a professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University. “So the question is how far do they cut it off?”

The conservative activist group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) is behind both the Harvard and the UNC cases. The suits claim that Harvard and UNC’s admissions practices use race in a discriminatory way.

“We have to think beyond just the who-gets-in and who-gets-to-enroll piece,” Dominique Baker explains. “This affects things like if there are any additional groups, community events, if there are additional scholarships in any sort of race-conscious policies, that they could be on the chopping block based on these decisions.”

Baker wonders if a program designed to increase the number of black doctors – with support to complete the pre-med curriculum and get into medical school – could be called into question.