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Implications of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Race in Admissions

On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the cases Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, striking down the use of race as a factor in college admissions.

ACT, along with the College Board, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers filed an amicus brief in the cases. In the amicus brief submitted to the Court, ACT reiterated our long-held belief that individualized holistic review of individual students’ applications in the higher education admission process does not involve “racial categorization” or “stereotyping,” as SFFA maintains, but rather is reflective of a process in which all relevant factors, considered in combination, shape applicant-specific judgments about their ability to succeed, and their ability to contribute to, and benefit from, their learning environment, peers, and community. (Read ACT’s statement on the Court’s decision.)

Helping to lead ACT’s efforts with the amicus brief was Art Coleman, managing partner of EducationCounsel LLC. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with him to discuss the implications of the decision. We asked him to speak to key issues that have emerged as a result:
  • Does the Court’s decision “gut affirmative action” in all its forms? If so, how?
  • How does the decision fit into the broader legal landscape for higher education?
  • Are there specific legal risks you think institutions should now focus on differently? If yes, what are they?
  • We’ve heard both the sharp rebuke of the decision and the heralding of it as a victory. The decision has sparked passionate and polarizing responses. Is there any common ground in the pages of the opinion … a hidden silver lining we might not easily see?

Art Coleman is a managing partner and co-founder of EducationCounsel LLC. He provides policy, strategic, and legal counseling services to national non-profit organizations, postsecondary institutions, school districts and state agencies throughout the country, where he addresses issues associated with:
  • Student access, diversity, inclusion, expression, and success.
  • Faculty diversity, inclusion and expression.
  • Institutional quality, accountability and accreditation.
Art previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, where, in the 1990s, he led the Department’s development of the Department’s Title VI policy on race-conscious financial aid, as well as OCR’s first comprehensive Title IX sexual harassment policy guidance.

Art is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, where he teaches a masters level course on enrollment management law and policy. In 2022, he received the Rossier School’s Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award, with the recognition that as “one of the nation’s leading legal voices supporting access, diversity and inclusion,” he “does a masterful job at simplifying complex concepts and highlighting the complexities of seemingly simple concepts.”

A former litigator, Art is a 1984 honors graduate of Duke University School of Law and a 1981 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia.

Additional links:

ACT’s joint amicus brief.

U.S. Supreme Court opinion.

Art mentions Grutter v. Bollinger in his interview. The U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in this case in June 2003 and upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School. Read the opinion.

Art also mentions Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin in his interview. The Court issued an opinion in this case in June 2016, saying the use of race in college admissions is constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment only if applied with “strict scrutiny.” Read the opinion.