By Karen Stokes
On Thursday, the Supreme Court rendered a decision that ended affirmative action in college admissions, asserting that race cannot be considered as a factor. Consequently, institutions of higher education are now compelled to explore alternative methods in their pursuit of diverse student bodies.
A plaintiff challenged race-conscious programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The vote broke along ideological grounds, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the conservative members in the majority, and the liberals dissenting.
Although the Court’s decision threatens to move the country backwards, the Biden-Harris Administration will work to preserve the hard-earned progress that was made to advance racial equity and civil rights and expand educational opportunity for all Americans.
As colleges and universities consider their admissions processes in the wake of the Court’s decision, President Biden is calling on them to seize the opportunity to expand access to educational opportunities for all. The nation is stronger when our colleges and universities reflect the vast and rich diversity of our people. But while talent, creativity, and hard work are everywhere across this country, equal opportunity is not.
After the 6-to-3 ruling, President Biden made remarks at the White House. He criticized the decision and reaffirmed his belief in the necessity of diversity.
“The truth is, we all know it: Discrimination still exists in America,” President Biden told reporters during his remarks in the Roosevelt Room. “For forty-five years, the United States Supreme Court has recognized a college’s freedom to decide how to build diverse student bodies and to meet their responsibility of opening doors of opportunity for every single American.”
The President addressed misconceptions about affirmative action, stating that it does not allow unqualified students to be admitted ahead of qualified ones. Instead, colleges establish admission standards that all students must meet. After meeting the necessary qualifications, additional factors, including race, are considered in the selection process.
“I want to send a message to all aspiring students, especially Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and other students from underserved communities: we see you and we need you. Do not let this ruling deter you from pursuing your educational potential. Our colleges and our country itself cannot thrive and compete in the 21st century without your talent, ingenuity, perseverance, and ambition,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement.
“We need a new path forward — a path consistent with a law that protects diversity and expands opportunity,” said the President. “What I propose for consideration is a new standard, where colleges take into account the adversity a student has overcome when selecting among qualified applicants.”
“The court has effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions, and I strongly, strongly disagree with the court’s decision,” Biden said. “We can and must do better, and we will.