The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday over the legitimacy of using affirmative action as a factor in college admissions, a decision that could potentially redefine how U.S. higher education approaches admissions as a means to further diversify its student body.
(Related Atlantic Story: How Affirmative Action Shaped the Current Supreme Court)
The case stems from a lawsuit against the University of Texas (Austin), which was sued by prospective student Abigail Fisher, who is white. Fisher alleges she was denied admission in 2008 because of her race, and the lawsuit seeks to remove race as a factor in admissions.
The university has said that Fisher would not have been accepted regardless of her race, but it maintains its affirmative-action program is part of a larger review that's necessary to build a diverse student body.
The high court's upcoming decision could potentially overturn a previous case in 2003 that ruled in favor of using affirmative action in college admissions. The 5-4 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger largely supports UT's stance, finding that race could be used as one of many factors in a "holistic review" of applicants.
If overturned, many of the nation's public universities would have to do away with their diversity programs. Private universities that receive federal funding also would have to follow suit.