Beyond Affirmative Action: Challenges, Changes, and Opportunities for College Admissions

20/04/202430 minute read
Beyond Affirmative Action: Challenges, Changes, and Opportunities for College Admissions

The U.S. Supreme Court's ban on affirmative action has already begun to impact and reshape the landscape of college admissions, presenting new challenges and opportunities for both students and universities. After retracing the key contours of the legal legacy and nuances of the Supreme Court ban on affirmative action, we delve into what we've learned about immediate changes in admissions policies and practices — from standardized testing, to college essays, recruiting programs, and more. Additionally, we explore students' responses and attitudes to the ban as well as the broader societal implications and possibilities. What new approaches to diversity-building and greater equity might university leaders explore? What might these innovative approaches entail? Do these opportunities have the potential to transform the Supreme Court's ban on affirmative action into a catalyst for a new era of deeper commitments that reach far beyond just admissions?

In June 2023, a more conservative US Supreme Court veered away from prior Supreme Court rulings, with a six-justice majority ruling in favor of ending race-based admissions practices. The decision was of course expected to have a significant impact on decades of struggles and initiatives to make college admissions more inclusive. The ruling also upends judicial precedents going as far back as 1978.

But despite the prior precedents, the ruling against affirmative action was hardly unexpected.

Affirmative action challengers have persistently fought to outlaw the use of race preferences at highly selective schools, arguing that to favor some groups inherently discriminates unfairly against others.

In 1996, for example, a voter referendum in California ended preferential admissions based on race, ethnicity, or gender. Ten years later, a similar referendum in Michigan banned race-based admissions practices across the state’s public universities.

We also reported in the wake of last June’s landmark ruling, that the nation itself was fairly divided on affirmative action in college admissions, with a recent Pew Research Center poll finding about 50% of US adults disapproving of race-based preferences in university admissions, 33% approving the practice, 16% not sure.

In the June 2023 ruling against affirmative action, the justices in the majority determined the use of race preferences to be inherently discriminatory when applied with an overly broad scope. Chief Justice John Roberts hardly minced words when expressing the majority's objections to the practice:

The Harvard and UNC ... programs [before the court] lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.

While the fairness argument might seem compelling in its very simplicity and clarity, the challenges to affirmative action have frequently pit specific individuals' experience or perception of fairness against the universities' efforts to promote greater social fairness.

In 2016, for example, Justice Kennedy, in his opinion for an earlier affirmative action ruling, suggested that race-based admissions policies have never been about creating admissions quotas that favor specific groups but about securing a general “interest in obtaining the educational benefits [for all students] that flow from student body diversity.”

Changes to Affirmative Action: Scope and Limits

Did the Ruling Make Admissions Truly ‘Race-blind?'

As a result of race-based preferences being deemed roundly ‘discriminatory’ and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, university leaders are now implementing explicit race-blind admissions policies.

In fact, even before the Supreme Court rendered its verdict in June 2023, CNN reported that officials with the Common App were revealing plans to give colleges the option to hide applicants’ answers to questions about their race and ethnicity, as of August 1, 2023.

There are limits to race blindness, however, in both the majority opinion and in the subsequent reshaping of admissions policies.

As my Crimson Education colleague reported at the time of the Court’s decision: “there is a major concession at the end of the 230-some-odd page opinion, subsection (f) which states:

At the same time, nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected the applicant's life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.

A bit akin to the “free speech zones” on some campuses, this concession would seem to carve out a crucial safe harbor for admissions officers to engage in considerations of race, even explicit ones, despite the broader ban. The only condition is that such considerations are applicant-by-applicant and relevant to making contextualized or holistic assessments of personal growth and character as it relates to potential contributions to university life and community.

A Near ‘Erasure’ of Race

When you think about it, without this concession, the ban might have had a chilling effect on students' own college journeys. Much like Ralph Ellison’sThe Invisible Man, applicants racial identities and all related aspects of their life experiences — in the context of college admissions at least — might potentially be rendered forcibly ‘invisible.’ How else would the admissions process remain entirely ‘race blind?’

Instead, the court’s concession for considerations of race in a holistic context assures students that the ruling against systematic quotas and preferences is not meant to effectively erase racial identity — it does not go so far as to prohibit all and any consideration of race in admissions.

“In her initial essay, Triniti Parker, a 16-year-old who aims to be the first doctor in her family, recalled her late grandmother, who was one of the first Black female bus drivers for the Chicago Transit Authority. But after the Supreme Court’s decision, a college adviser told her to make clear references to her race, saying it should not ‘get lost in translation.’ So Triniti adjusted a description of her and her grandmother’s physical features to allude to the color of their skin.”

- Bernard Mokam, "After Affirmative Action Ban, They Rewrote College Essays With a Key Theme: Race." New York Times

Potential Impact on Holistic Admissions

Thus, while the court’s majority clearly intends to put an end to the systematic use of race preferences, the court did allow for individual considerations of race — at least in the context of holistic assessments of an applicant profile, as relevant to university candidacy.

Without this provision, it’s conceivable that the ban might have upended the nation’s well-established acceptance of broader ‘holistic’ admissions practices, while also silencing a fundamental right to free speech and self expression, infringing on an American principle perhaps as sacred as, or more sacred than, equality and fairness.

As such, in light of the majority’s pivotal concession, it seems, at least for now, that the ban’s impact will not go so far as restricting or undermining a long standing commitment to holistic admissions processes across much of the higher ed landscape.

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Immediate Impact on Racial Demographics

One big question we all have is: will the court’s ruling really impact racial diversity on campuses?

Well, since it’s been only 10 months since the landmark ruling, it’s really too soon to know the real impacts on admissions trends and demographics.

That said, existing bans on affirmative action at the state level, in California (ban in place since 1996) and Michigan (ban in place since 2006), have reduced representation for certain racial and ethnic groups on public campuses in those states.

In addition, some university officials in California and Michigan also assert that  alternative measures designed to increase equity have generally not been as effective as affirmative action.

In a prior report, we noted, for example, that  the University of California saw a steep decline in enrollment numbers for Black and Latino students — "a 40% decline at the two most popular campuses, UCLA and UCB” — when voters in the state passed Prop 209 in 1996.

Reporters at report that University of California officials found that neither race-neutral changes to admissions processes nor the  half a billion dollars spent since the late 1990s on equity initiatives ever proved as effective as affirmative action had been.

When two prominent researchers looked at data from 19 public universities across all nine states with affirmative action bans, they sifted through twenty years of data from before and after bans were put in place. What did they find? "Race-neutral strategies were an 'insufficient' replacement for affirmative action at those 19 schools."

We find a sizable decrease in [underrepresented minorities’] share of admittees immediately following the affirmative action bans... Of more concern, the trends in nearly all of these universities are negative in the following years.

Little wonder then that UC officials petitioned the Supreme Court before the ruling in June 2023, “concluding to the court that its decades-long experience with race-neutral admissions ‘demonstrates that highly competitive universities may not be able to achieve the benefits of student body diversity through race-neutral measures alone.’”

According to Ed Source, UC officials reported on demographic figures highlighting the racial disparities in play:

[California’s] high school seniors in 2021 were 54% Latino and 5.4% Black. But that fall, UC’s incoming freshmen were 26% Latino, and 4.4% Black.

Michigan experienced similar impacts when voters there banned affirmative action, resulting in significant declines in enrollment for African Americans and Native Americans across the state university system. Afterward, none of the alternative approaches adopted by the institution provided the same gains in equity as affirmative action had.

These past examples certainly read like a cautionary tale — portending moderate if not steep declines in offers to Black and LatinX students going forward from here as the Court’s ban on affirmative action is implemented.

Again, It's too soon to measure the full demographic impacts, but based on reporting by Forbes, offers of admissions from the top 200 schools are projected by some experts to increase modestly for applicants from over-represented groups, about 4-5% for Asian applicants and 2-3% for White applicants, with similar declines for students from underrepresented groups.

Further Reading:

Here's what happened when affirmative action ended at California public colleges

Impacts on Equity Measures Beyond Admissions

While admissions policies and data on campus diversity are clearly the main focus of attention in this post-affirmative action era, it’s important to remember that the ruling could also affect additional equity initiatives in higher education that have traditionally relied on racial preferences.

These kinds of measures could include a range of equity-driven programs related to financial aid, tutoring or other academic support, scholarships, fly-back programs for prospective students, or other kinds of race-based outreach and recruitment programs whenever these services or benefits are based on race indicators.

How Are Universities, Students, and High Schools Responding?

“The biggest impact of the Supreme Court ruling might not be related to admissions... but whether colleges will continue to support diversity on campus. That means bolstering student groups, programs and events focused on race and ethnicity, providing ample financial aid, and creating an overall welcoming atmosphere.”

- Carolyn Jones and Mikhail Zinshteyn, “How college admissions are changing after the end of affirmative action."

Universities have existing and emerging approaches to admissions practices that are not fully race blind but are race neutral or consider race only within the boundaries set by the Supreme Court. These include:

  1. New approaches to the use of SAT/ACT testing for admissions
  2. ‘Place not Race’ policies — recruiting students from diverse schools across diverse geographic communities and regions
  3. New or revised essay prompts

1. New Approaches to the Use of Standardized Testing for Admissions

Forbes analyst Vinay Bhaskara predicted the ban on affirmative action would further prompt universities to make standardized testing optional, as a way of promoting equity in the wake of the ban on race-based preferences.

In fact, recent studies show the test-optional trend was already in full swing before the ban on race preferences, with more than 80% of all institutions now test optional.

In one survey of College and University Admissions Directors, 65% of respondents also reported admitting more minority applicants after going test optional.

Despite the widespread adoption of test-optional admissions policies, there are some high-profile signs of a potential reversal, with a number of prominent schools, including Yale and Harvard, recently announcing plans to reinstate test requirements for the Class of 2029.

But while this reversal signals a return to testing mandates, potentially compounding obstacles to admissions for underrepresented groups, the announcements made by officials at Yale, Harvard, and some other top schools also signal a nuanced but potentially pivotal change of course for promoting diversity in the post-affirmative action era.

Instead of using the required test scores to rank students and create rigorous thresholds for admissions, the universities in question say they are reinstating the test requirement in order to predict college readiness — especially for students from under-resourced communities and high schools who may indeed be ready for a Yale or Harvard experience but lack some of the fancy extracurriculars and curriculum offerings that more affluent peers are able to access.

In short, these Ivy Leagues now plan to go back to SAT/ACT testing but with a new narrative, one where testing is less about ranking for top scores and more about using test scores as a new tool for equity — for helping qualify students from disadvantaged backgrounds or from under-resourced communities and high schools for admission to an elite university.

For related insights and analysis from Crimson Education, check out these articles:

Harvard Reinstates Standardized Testing

Yale Reinstates Standardized Testing

The Shifting SAT/ACT Landscape

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2. Place Not Race

Another way schools are likely to respond to the ban on affirmative action is by what some experts refer to as the implementation of “place not race” approaches to admissions, prioritizing geographical outreach as an alternative tool for building more inclusive campus communities.

An example is Texas’ Top 10% Law, the popular name for Texas House Bill 588, passed in 1997, that guarantees Texas students who graduate in the top ten percent of their high school class automatic admission to all state-funded universities. According to officials at UT Austin, “the Top 10 Percent law has had a positive impact on increasing geographic diversity and providing more accessibility to UT Austin to students from all schools around the state.”

A similar approach has been used by the University of California system for many years.

Yale, when reinstating its testing mandates, also announced making greater commitments in outreach to diverse high school communities in order to ensure students understand their potential for charting a path to an Ivy League school.

3. New Essay Prompts

Another way higher ed leaders are responding to the Supreme Court decision is with new or revised essay prompts.

In light of the allowances the court made for schools to consider race and race-based factors relevant to a whole-person admissions process, college essay prompts have become the subject of renewed interest.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, David Hawkins, chief education and policy officer of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said, “so long as the methods and assessments are race-neutral, colleges should feel free to continue their efforts to derive contextual information from essays and interviews as part of the college application process.”

Reporters at Inside Higher Ed also found that “a large number of institutions — many of them private, selective colleges — have already revised or added supplemental questions in response to the Supreme Court ruling. They range from direct references to the Supreme Court decision to broader questions about an applicant’s ‘cultural background’ and ‘lived experiences.’ Some ask about applicants’ intellectual views on the ‘values’ of diversity and inclusion.”

Harvard Revised Its Essay Questions.

Making explicit reference to the Supreme Court ruling, Harvard announced in August 2023 that it decided to eliminate an optional longer-form response that allowed applicants to write on virtually any topic of their choosing. They replaced that prompt with required short answer questions designed “to provide every student the opportunity to reflect on and share how their life experiences and academic and extracurricular activities shaped them, how they will engage with others at Harvard, and their aspirations for the future.”

According to Joshua S. Wyner, Executive Director of the College Excellence Program at The Aspen Institute “the changes Harvard made to its application are clearly designed to help admissions do what the Supreme Court said is okay — namely, to consider race as part of an applicant’s ‘experiences as an individual — not on the basis of race.’”

Princeton Crafts an Updated ‘Your Voice’ Essay Prompt

In September 2023, Princeton made a significant change to one of its essay prompts, the ‘Your Voice’ essay prompt — a change that asks applicants to focus on their lived experiences and how those experiences will inform their contributions to campus life — exactly the kind of probing the Supreme Court said could include open discussions of race and racial identity. The essay update was described this way by Crimson Education:

In the prior cycle, applicants were prompted to probe challenging conversations and the insights they yielded. The updated prompt emphasizes Princeton's cherished values of community and respectful dialogue. Applicants are now encouraged to introspect on their life experiences and how the lessons they've learned from their experiences will shape their contributions to campus life.

“For college applicants, this is the year of the identity-driven essay, the one part of the admissions process in which it is still explicitly legal to discuss race after the Supreme Court banned affirmative action in June.”

- Anemona Hartocollis and Colbi Edmonds, “Colleges Want to Know More About You and Your 'Identity.” New York Times.

Johns Hopkins' New Essay Prompt

Johns Hopkins added this supplemental essay prompt in 2023-24:

Tell us about an aspect of your identity (e.g. race, gender, sexuality, religion, community, etc.) or a life experience that has shaped you as an individual and how that influenced what you’d like to pursue in college at Hopkins.  This can be a future goal or experience that is either academic, extracurricular, or social.

In addition to asking students to address personal experiences at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, religion, and community, school officials attached a special note to the prompt, making explicit reference to the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action:

An important note about the essay:
In this essay question, we are looking for how an aspect of your identity or background has contributed to your personal story – your character, values, perspectives, or skills – and how you think it may shape your approach to college, as a scholar, leader, or community member.

Please note that the U.S. Supreme Court recently limited the consideration of race in college admissions decisions but specifically permitted consideration of “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life” so long as the student is “treated based on his or her experiences as an individual – not on the basis of race.” Therefore, any part of your background, including but not limited to your race, may be discussed in your response to this essay if you so choose, but will be considered by the university based solely on how it has affected your life and your experiences as an individual.

Clearly, in direct response to the leeway provided by the court majority, universities are seeking to use admissions essays to uncover diverse differences and experiences likely to intersect with race for many applicants. For now, it’s too early to tell how admissions officers might integrate these life experiences into their holistic admissions processes, and it will likely remain difficult to discern much about this from the outside in any event.

Student Perspectives on Navigating Admissions Beyond Affirmative Action

In 2023, surveyed 103 college-bound high school seniors of color to find out how they planned to address race in their college applications and their attitudes on the end of affirmative action.

Three in four students surveyed expressed a likelihood of addressing race in their college essays, with 22% reporting ‘very likely’ and 55% ‘somewhat likely.’

Reporting on his own experiences interviewing dozens of students of different minority races and ethnicities for The New York Times, Bernard Mokam found that while students had different attitudes and opinions toward the court ruling and about how to respond in their essays, most were fairly preoccupied by the racial dynamics at play.

Some students felt more emboldened to put racial identity and experiences at the center of their essays, while others felt pressure to do so, but wondered if race was really central to their personal profile as a college applicant.

For many of the students interviewed by Mokam for the article, however, the Supreme Court’s decision prompted deeper reflection on the role of racial or ethnic identity in their life formation and spurred them to embrace those questions and probe them more deeply and openly in their college essays.

Looking Beyond Admissions: Wider & Deeper

Will the end of affirmative action in college admissions prove to be a catalyst that prompts universities to take more leadership and action? Will they make fuller commitments to contributing to deeper structural change?

It’s too soon to know, and elite schools have remained largely aloof from the ‘fray’ of stubborn inequities plaguing K-12 education.

Nonetheless, we can still try to imagine how institutions of higher ed, including top schools, might look beyond the relatively narrow scope of affirmative action policies — which they now must do — and seek deeper models of engagement and collaboration to drive more meaningful, proactive solutions to inequities across the K-12-to-higher-ed spectrum, such as:

  • Stark inequities across the K-12 educational landscape
  • Fast-rising and prohibitive college costs that quickly overwhelm middle class families and students, let alone more disadvantaged groups
  • The nation’s elite-schools complex, namely the limited access to a small cadre of very elite schools combined with the disproportionate benefits  that flow to those attending these schools
  • The widespread lack of high standards, respect, resources, and support plaguing the K-12 profession and limiting educational reform and lowering academic outcomes across much of the K-12 landscape

To illustrate what wider and deeper might look like in the form of more innovative commitments, let’s take two models, one a set of practical recommendations put forth by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the other a think tank approach of sorts involving scholars and graduate students at Stanford University.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: A Call for Wider and Deeper K-12 and Higher Ed Collaborations

The foundation highlights four key ways higher ed institutions can partner with K-12 school leaders to drive deeper, long-term structural improvements across the K-12 landscape:

  1. Strengthening high school students’ transitions to college with collaborations aimed at expanding college bridge programs, dual-enrollment opportunities, as well as mentoring, advising, and tutoring support. The goal is to create rewarding channels that boost young students’ confidence and help disadvantaged students see themselves attending college — all while making their path to college more realistic and accessible.
  2. Providing infusions of capacity-building support to K-12 institutions with pipelines that connect education-focused college students with K-12 institutions as mentors, aides, and tutors, and bolstered by incentives in the form of college credits, internships, or wages. Grad students in education or other relevant fields might also engage in a similar model, co-teaching K-12 classes, improving educational technology designs, skills, and resources, helping design and produce K-12 curriculum resources, or enriching K-12 professional development with evidence-based and standards-based practices.
  3. Build out higher ed initiatives designed to expand and diversify teacher education and preparation pathways. This can include not just education majors, but college students from diverse majors and with diverse skill sets to put to work in K-12 settings.
  4. Improve K-12 educators’ access to timely and actionable research. “Rather than only investing in traditional, longer-term studies, there is an opportunity for institutions of higher education and school systems to partner to create new data and understanding with rapid cycle evaluation in ways that serve communities right now.”

Stanford’s Graduate School of Education Policy Practicum: What’s Next? After Students for Fair Admissions.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ban on affirmative action and the questions it raised for institutions of higher education, Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) Professor Mitchell Stevens and Stanford Law School Professor Ralph Richard Banks created a GSE course to search for possible answers.

Students enrolled in the course participate in working groups with classmates with the goal of exploring and proposing solutions to problems of equity in higher education. The course harnesses the exceptional insights and policy skills of its students to probe some big questions about how top universities can be engaged in problem solving around social inequities:

  • What are new ways universities can contribute to their communities and regions?
  • How can institutions like Stanford make their educational riches available to wider populations?
  • How might schools like Stanford deploy academic intellectual capital to solve intractable social problems — such as how to pay for higher education without excessive debt, for example?

Student projects are focused in one of four areas:

  • changing how admissions offices recruit, sort, and select students
  • distributing educational resources more equitably
  • creating new forms of educational assets
  • building entirely new pathways, outside of elite higher education, to enable people to attain positions of prominence across a broad gamut of social institutions

While audacious and ambitious, the response adopted by these Stanford scholars is a reminder of how important it is to simply ask the big questions and imagine big and bold solutions — without this kind of vision as a catalyst for change, our horizons are likely to remain far more limited.

Savage Inequalities

In looking beyond affirmative action, my intention was to focus on the higher education landscape in particular. That said, underneath the surface of many of these issues are the deeper economic inequalities rife in American society, including the 'savage inequalities' Jonathon Kozol referred to in his iconic book about the vast funding disparities plaguing public schooling in America.

If Americans have grown resigned or desensitized to the economic chasms over time, these disparities remain starkly real and, to outsiders, very visible.

When I asked Crimson US Strategist Tze Kwang Teo, educated in Singapore, for his insights on this topic, his thoughts went almost immediately to broader issues of inequity. He noted a recent LA Times post questioning why all the experts suddenly advocating for standardized testing as a tool for equity are not also calling for universal test prep classes in high schools.

From Tze Kwang's point of view, the controversy and policy debates around affirmative action ultimately point us back to Kozol's savage inequalities:

This really is back to the 'rich district rich school, poor district poor school' problem that is the fundamental displeasure I have with American education. It's unheard of over here in Singapore because here the government spending on education can be measured, and its implemented per student... So in Singapore, yes we do have 'rich private schools' (capitalism after all), but we do not have poor public schools.

Obviously these resource inequities often overlap with race, but I found it interesting that even Tze Kwang, raised and educated in Asia, saw that what lies behind affirmative action is perhaps not as much an issue of equity for a broad category of different 'racial minorities' but a fundamental issue of racial reparations, so to speak — to redress a legacy of 'savage discriminations' that really is a tale of primarily only two races, White Americans and Black Americans.

“African Americans today still suffer from the effects of unlawful and unconstitutional public and private policies of the past that were explicitly designed to maintain them in a subordinate status. These policies were so powerful that they continue to keep Black college applicants at a disadvantage.”

- Richard Rothstein, "The Problem with Wealth-Based Affirmative Action"

Asian-Americans, Tze Kwan observed, are ambivalent about affirmative action because they "don't want the perception and definitely not the reality that their minority ethnic segment is either biased against or favored by affirmative action."

At the same time, they understand other race narratives in the US, beyond their own, and the need for affirmative action as a social good because of "prior systematic discrimination that still persists in terms of longer-term consequences."

This observation may help us understand why, despite the broad favor that race-neutral approaches such as 'place not race' enjoy in academic circles, some experts, like Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, are calling out the limits of place not race as substitute for affirmative action, calling on Americans, even after the Supreme Court ban, to continue advocating for a return to race-based interventions.

Truth be told, it can be some White Americans, not Blacks, who feel they're getting the short end of the stick today, precisely because of programs like race-based affirmative action. In the end, the persistent and virulent challenges to affirmative action are perhaps a symptom of this White 'resentment' (with Asian-Americans sometimes pulled into the fray by contagion).

But resenting public support for one group can quickly turn into resentment toward any larger ethos of social equity, like the ethos driving the educational equity Tze Kwang respects and benefitted from in Singapore.

Maybe the real question to ask in this post-affirmative action era is not, Is affirmative action right or wrong, fair or unfair?, but instead, Why are we divided on questions of equity and social good to begin with?

Or, as Heather McGhee asks in her book The Sum of Us, what is racism costing all of us, Black and White together?

“The narrative that white people should see the well-being of people of color as a threat to their own is one of the most powerful subterranean stories in America. Until we destroy the idea, opponents of progress can always unearth it and use it to block any collective action that benefits us all.”

- Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

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Final Thoughts

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ban on the affirmative action we might wonder what purpose all these disagreements about affirmative action are serving.

The justice's majority opinion makes a full-throated, common-sense argument about equal protection and fundamental fairness. But will the elimination of affirmative action result in outcomes likely to actually make life more 'fair' in the realm of college admissions?

Today, selective universities are already forced to reject roughly 85 to 96% of all applicants each year, just based on the numbers.

Nonetheless, this bid for an abstract adherence to 'equal protection' — if recent history is any indicator — is likely to impede progress in addressing social inequalities in terms of broad demographic disparities in higher education, especially for Black and LatinX Americans — disparities that result in social and economic disadvantages across multiple generations.

As we move beyond affirmative action, it's time to see if this win for individual fairness and setback for social equity could serve as a catalyst for greater opportunities, solutions, and outcomes that uplift all Americans.

To the degree university leaders do want to be part of the solution, we’ve highlighted some visions and models that could point the way for deeper commitments from higher ed leaders and institutions. More broadly, though, the fight over affirmative action may be a symptom not only of deeper inequalities but of a deeper anxiety. From competitive admissions to college debt, we all feel some stress striving for access to the best educational opportunities.

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