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The Supreme Court revisits affirmative action

Amy Scott Dec 8, 2015
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The United States Supreme Court is expected take up the issue of race as a factor in college admissions this week. Oral arguments are scheduled Wednesday in the case of a former student who says she was rejected from the University of Texas because she is white. 

This is the second time the high court will hear  the case of Abigail Fisher vs. the University of Texas. In 2013, justices sent the case back to a lower court for a stricter look at the university’s admissions process, which takes race into account among other factors. That court sided with the university.

“When Abigail Fisher appealed, the justices agreed to take the case, which is really concerning news for supporters of affirmative action,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. A ruling could apply to any college or university that accepts federal funding, he said.  

With Justice Elena Kagan abstaining, the Supreme Court is likely to be split, said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. Justice Anthony Kennedy is expected to cast the deciding vote.

“Notably, Justice Kennedy has never voted for a particular affirmative action program, but he’s also never closed the door on using racial preferences altogether,” said Shapiro.

What he does this time may not be known until close to the end of the term next June.

Eight states have banned race-based affirmative action at public universities, but many colleges consider race as part of efforts to increase diversity.

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