Jun 30, 2023 - News

How SCOTUS' affirmative action decision will impact Philly colleges

Illustration of a speech bubble with a gavel coming down on a speech bubble with a graduation cap.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Philadelphia-area universities are considering next steps after the Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions.

Why it matters: The landmark ruling Thursday could be a watershed moment for higher education in the region and nationwide, decreasing diversity on campuses and eventually professional industries, Axios' April Rubin writes.

Driving the news: The conservative-majority Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that colleges can't explicitly consider applicants' race in admissions.

  • The high court sided with conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions, which argued that Harvard and the University of North Carolina's admissions processes discriminate against white and Asian American applicants.

Of note: The court's majority exempted military academies from the opinion.

What they're saying: Harvard could see the percentage of students from underrepresented groups fall by 50% due to the ruling, Cara McClellan, a University of Pennsylvania associate practice professor of law who worked on Harvard’s case at the appellate level, told the Inquirer.

Zoom in: The ruling will bring changes to the University of Pennsylvania's admissions process, President Liz Magill and Provost John Jackson Jr. said in a joint statement. The Ivy League continues to study the court's decision.

  • Jose Aviles, Temple University's vice provost for enrollment management, tells Axios that diversity at the school likely won't change much as the North Philly school attracts high numbers of Black, Latino and Asian applicants.
  • But he expects Temple will invest more in recruiting students from communities of color post-ruling.

Reality check: Timothy Welbeck, director of Temple University's Center for Anti-Racism, tells Axios that students of color are not on an equal playing field with their white counterparts.

  • People of color were historically excluded from colleges, putting them at a disadvantage when institutions use legacy preferences in the admissions process.
  • "Schools cannot consider trying to undo centuries of harm and racialized segregation," Welbeck said about the ruling.

Zoom in: Pennsylvania and more than three dozen other states have allowed race to be considered in college admissions.

Zoom out: Nine states previously banned considering race in admissions, per the AP.

  • Some of those states, like California and Michigan, saw declines in the number of Black and Hispanic students after the required race-neutral policies were put in place.

What's ahead: Effects from the ruling will likely begin in 2024.

  • That's because most colleges have already accepted students for their fall classes.

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