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Originally Published by U.S. News & World Report

Whether colleges and universities should consider race or ethnicity as part of the admissions process has been widely debated in higher education for decades.

Now, the fate of affirmative action has officially been decided, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the use of race in college admissions – deeming the admissions programs at both Harvard University in Massachusetts and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court justices originally heard these challenges to race-conscious admissions in October in two cases: Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. The lawsuits argued that admissions policies taking race into consideration discriminate against Asian American applicants and, in the case of UNC, also white students.

Experts say the June 29 ruling will have far-reaching implications for diversity on college campuses and in the workforce pipeline.

The Supreme Court has heard several race-conscious admissions cases since Bakke, including the most recent involving Harvard and UNC. Both of these cases were spearheaded by Edward Blum, a conservative legal activist who opposes the consideration of race and ethnicity in the U.S. and who helped bring a similar challenge to the Supreme Court in 2016 in Fisher v. University of Texas, which was unsuccessful.

Prior to this ruling, affirmative action was banned at public colleges and universities in nine states. California, for instance, voted to ban affirmative action more than 25 years ago. Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington also previously banned the practice.

In an attempt to ensure diversity on campus without affirmative action, some colleges chose to automatically admit a certain percentage – often the top 10% – of a high school’s graduating class. “I think these policies do increase the racial and socioeconomic diversity of particularly the flagship institutions in a state,” Meyer says. “But when comparing them against the decline in socioeconomic and racial diversity that happens after affirmative action is banned in a state, they aren’t able to overcome the loss in diversity from banning affirmative action.”

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