The higher education community is waiting to find out whether admissions policies will be roundly reshaped by the Supreme Court’s decision on Fisher v. Texas. While affirmative action has been a mainstay of college admissions for decades, the holistic language of court precedents remains open for interpretation and legal challenges.
Whatever the court decides, this latest challenge to affirmative action calls into question the fundamentals of both strategy and mission as offices of admissions look to engage with the students of Generation Z. These students, born in the mid-1990s through the present, will feel acutely the impact of the court’s decision. Not only will their chances of acceptance at certain schools be affected, but also, this case will determine the overall demographics of college campuses for years to come.
Well into the 20th century, American universities persisted as strongholds of racial, socioeconomic, and gender discrimination. Affirmative action was designed to level the playing field. The “playing field” is certainly not “level” and, perhaps, never will be; no law cannot account for every factor or particular case. Yet, institutions of higher education and the courts alike continue efforts to identify proper admissions policies that respect both institutional priorities and the rights of all prospective students.
Renewed public attention and legal scrutiny represent the ongoing pursuit of equal opportunity and fairness as higher education is increasingly seen as a public right, rather than the domain of an elite few.