The U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing in not forcing the University of Texas to change its admission policies in its ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case that tested the constitutionality of considering race in university admissions. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the university to prove that its admissions practices are not solely based on race but are representative of a more holistic process.
Because the Supreme Court did not issue an overarching mandate regarding the use of race in admissions policies, it is the duty of public universities to ensure representation of all races in their schools. This is currently done with varying success and through a variety of methods at public universities around the country. In addition to considering applicants’ race, Texas follows the Top 10 Percent Plan, which guarantees high school students who are in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class automatic admission to any public university in Texas. The University of California has a similar plan, with high school graduates in the top 9 percent of their class guaranteed admission to at least one campus in the University of California.
However, California’s version is race-blind because of Proposition 209, a 1996 ballot initiative that prevents state-funded institutions from considering factors such as race or ethnicity in admissions or hiring decisions. Because of Prop. 209, individual campuses within the University of California have seen a decrease in admission and enrollment of hispanics and black students since the late 1990s. In 2011, an estimated 11 percent of the student population was Chicano/Latino at UC Berkeley, while an estimated 49 percent of the state’s college-aged population was Hispanic. It is important that public universities ensure that their student bodies reflect the racial makeup of the state in which they exist. California’s current methods do not allow for such a student body.
By not forcing the University of Texas to change its admission policies, the Supreme Court rightfully allowed the University of Texas at Austin to maintain diversity in higher education. Other states should also have that opportunity.