In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that bans the consideration of race in college admissions, the Biden administration has provided new guidance to colleges. The purpose of this guidance is to assist colleges in promoting diversity through lawful means. The administration emphasizes the importance of equal access to higher education for students from various backgrounds and suggests that colleges reevaluate their admissions policies. Rather than giving preference to legacy status or donor affiliation, which may benefit privileged students disproportionately, colleges are encouraged to focus on attributes such as hard work, achievement, curiosity, potential, and determination when evaluating applicants.
The issue of legacy preference in college admissions has come under scrutiny following the affirmative action ruling. To address this concern, the Education Department has initiated a civil rights inquiry into Harvard University to investigate allegations that legacy preference favors white and wealthy applicants over those from non-white backgrounds. Responding to this scrutiny, some colleges like Wesleyan and Occidental have already announced the removal of legacy consideration from their admissions processes.
In addition to a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to colleges, the Education and Justice Departments have released a FAQ document that provides further clarification on the implications of the Supreme Court decision. The FAQ explains that while direct consideration of race may be limited, colleges can still take into account an applicant’s experiences related to race. For example, an applicant’s experience as the first Black violinist in a youth orchestra or overcoming racial prejudice in a different environment could be considered.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona also announced that a comprehensive report outlining effective strategies for colleges to achieve diversity in a lawful manner will be published in the coming weeks. The Biden administration aims to support colleges in maintaining diversity while conforming to the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action.