Jun 29, 2023 - News

D.C.-area universities respond to Supreme Court affirmative action decision

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

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Several D.C.-area universities pledged to keep working to diversify their student bodies following the Supreme Court's rejection of the use of affirmative action in admissions.

Why it matters: The 6-3 conservative-led decision Thursday could be a watershed moment for higher education, decreasing diversity in colleges and universities and eventually professional industries.

What they're saying: "While we are deeply disappointed in today's decision and will continue to comply with the law, we remain committed to our efforts to recruit, enroll, and support students from all backgrounds," said Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia.

The other side: George Mason University said it already did not consider race in admissions.

The big picture: The effects of the high court's decision are expected to be felt immediately.

  • Jerry Kang, a UCLA law professor who has researched affirmative action and implicit bias, says to expect "substantial drops in underrepresented minority representation" during the next admissions cycle.

Racial disparities will be even more pronounced at highly selective institutions, with a drop in Black and Latino enrollment, says Julie J. Park, an associate professor of education at the University of Maryland who has studied race-conscious admissions.

  • That lack of diversity will eventually trickle into professional fields, including business, medicine, and law, Park contends.

What we're watching: Schools could turn to other avenues to counteract the loss of diversity that accompanies banning affirmative action, Park said. That could be taking a holistic approach in admissions, de-emphasizing the importance of standardized tests and giving more weight to socioeconomic status.

  • Or, reassessing policies that heavily favor white applicants, like early decision policies and legacy admissions, she added.

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