The Supreme Court on Monday punted on making a decision on a Texas affirmative action college admissions case, sending it back to a lower court for further review.
The move affirmed, at least for now, the use of race in the college admissions process.
The case was brought forward by a white woman who was denied admission to the University of Texas in 2008. Abigail Fisher claimed that her constitutional rights and federal civil rights laws were violated, and she sought to overturn the school’s consideration of race among its many factors in filling out its freshman classes.
A broad ruling by the Supreme Court could have ended the use of race in college admissions nationwide.
But in a 7-1 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the justices ruled that a lower court hadn’t held the university to a “demanding burden of strict scrutiny.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the lone dissenter, while Justice Elena Kagan was recused.
The university has defended its policy of considering race as one of many factors, saying it’s designed to create a diverse campus. The school said test scores, community service, leadership and work experience also are key admissions factors.
The case was highly anticipated partly because the makeup of the court has changed since the last time the justices ruled on affirmative action in higher education in 2003. Then, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the majority opinion that held that colleges and universities can use race in their quest for diverse student bodies.
O’Connor retired in 2006 and her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito, has been more skeptical of considering race in education.