As colleges and universities make plans to move forward following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling prohibiting race-conscious admissions, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Audrey Anderson authored an article providing practical guidance on steps higher education institutions can take to update their current policies and determine how to pursue a racially diverse student body in compliance with the decision.

“The Department of Education and the Department of Justice have stated that they will issue guidance around mid-August to assist colleges and universities in complying with the opinion,” Audrey said. “Meanwhile, colleges and universities with selective admissions processes must finalize any changes to their admissions practices so that staff can be adequately trained in time to review applications for the 2024-25 academic year.”

Audrey offered the following guidelines for universities to keep in mind following the recent ruling:

  1. Ensure that admissions policies and processes state that race may not be considered for its own sake as a factor in admissions decisions.
  2. Determine if your institution has a mission-based interest in a racially diverse student body, noting that the Students for Fair Admissions vs. Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard) decision does not find pursuit of a racially diverse student body to be illegal; it only finds that such an interest is not compelling as a constitutional matter.
  3. If your institution does pursue a racially diverse student body, document your admissions process to demonstrate that race was not used in admissions decisions should your process be challenged. Also, train admissions teams to ensure they understand how race-neutral factors are being used in the process and document that training.
  4. Ensure that those making admissions decisions are not provided with aggregate racial information of the incoming class until all admissions decisions have been made, including those concerning waitlisted students.
  5. Ensure that your admissions office is working closely with appropriate legal support from inside or outside the institution to review selective admissions policies and practices to mitigate risk.

The full article, “Supreme Court Holds Affirmative Action Unconstitutional, So What’s Next?” was published on July 27 for the Times Higher Education’s “Campus” platform and is available online.