June 28, 2016
In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions program in a controversial 4-3 decision. Texas state schools currently use a Top Ten Percent Plan, which guarantees college admission to students who graduate from a Texas high school in the top 10 percent of their class. At the University, 75 percent of the freshman class is filled through this Plan. The other 25 percent are admitted after the admissions board performs a holistic review of the prospective student’s application, which takes into account the applicant’s race.
The plaintiff was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class and was denied admission to the University of Texas in 2008. She alleged that the University’s consideration of race as a part of its holistic-review process disadvantaged her in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
The Court held that the University’s diversity goals were concrete and precise, and satisfied the constitutional requirement that government racial classifications advance a compelling interest. The Court found it persuasive that the holistic review process “had a meaningful, if still limited, effect on the diversity of the university’s freshman class.” Justice Alito, in his impassioned dissent, argued that the University did not meet its heavy burden of showing an advancement of a compelling interest.
This decision sets a strong precedent in pending affirmative action cases around the county. Currently, lawsuits are pending against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina alleging similar complaints. The Supreme Court’s decision will no doubt have a significant impact on these pending suits and will provide guidance to colleges and universities with race-based admission criteria.
The Supreme Court’s decision can be accessed here Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin.
This article is intended to provide general information and, therefore, should not be treated as legal advice. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.
Authors: Ryan Lorch and Rudy Verner