Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 29 that declared considering race as an independent factor in college admissions as illegal, the Biden administration released its much-anticipated guidance on August 15.

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Key Takeaways

  • Federal resources released by the Biden administration provide colleges with guidance on the Supreme Court’s decision against considering race as an exclusive factor during admissions.
  • The administration highlighted the importance of individual experiences related to race and discouraged institutions from solely depending on racial considerations.
  • The guidance still didn’t clarify the aspect of financial aid and the impact of the ruling on scholarships.

Both the Departments of Education and Justice have come together to release guidance, strongly encouraging institutions to update their admissions policies in light of the court’s recent decision. as reported by Inside Higher Ed.

Associate attorney general Vanita Gupta emphasized

“Race can be relevant to a person’s life or a lived experience… That impact can still be considered.”

Even though race alone cannot be a determining factor, the experiences shaped by race can still hold value in the admissions process.

Many institutions, for example, are adapting by allowing students to share experiences related to race through application essays. The Biden administration, represented by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, has restated its commitment to supporting legal efforts towards diversity. The Secretary warned against the possible national setbacks in the absence of affirmative action:

“We cannot afford that kind of backsliding on a national scale.”

Miguel Cardona

Going Beyond Admissions

The guidance didn’t touch upon admissions solely. It also advised colleges on the legality of diversifying their student bodies via targeted recruitment and the retention of students of colour. Moreover, bridge and pathway programs for high schoolers intended to enrich applicant pools remain lawful.

Nonetheless, programs that exclusively rely on race during application or awarding spots risk being subject to the same strict standards set by the affirmative action ruling. Collecting demographic data is not illegal, yet institutions are cautioned against solely using it as a basis for admissions decisions.

Unaddressed Concerns

Despite the breadth of the guidance, certain areas, especially scholarships based on race and hiring processes, remain left behind. Different interpretations of the ruling by state officials have institutions worried, as it could lead to a lot of confusion.

James Murphy, deputy director of higher education policy at Education Reform Now, voiced concerns about the absence of directives on financial aid. He stated:

“Leaving that in limbo will just make for a really chaotic situation.”

James Murphy

Biden administration has provided colleges with a clearer understanding of the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action. Nonetheless, there are still areas of uncertainty. Only time will tell how institutions handle these changes in the American higher education field.


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