AG Urges Supreme Court to Allow Race-Conscious Admissions Policies at Public College and Universities
Leads Filing of Multistate Amicus Brief Highlighting Educational Benefits of Diversity, Role of Schools in Providing Access to Opportunity
BOSTON – Arguing that a diverse student body enhances educational outcomes and better prepares individuals to compete and lead in the modern economy, Attorney General Maura Healey today filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to allow public colleges and universities the flexibility to design admissions policies that take race into account as one of many relevant factors.
“Our public colleges and universities educate much of our public and private sector leaders and are critical to the economic security of our nation,” AG Healey said. “These institutions must be accessible to students of all backgrounds and reflect the diversity of experiences, perspectives, and ideas necessary to compete in a global economy.”
The amicus brief highlights the fact that public colleges and universities educate approximately 75 percent of all undergraduates in the country. The brief asserts that states must be able to ensure diversity in their schools because it best prepares graduates to work in a multicultural society.
Additionally, public higher education plays a large role in providing economic and social opportunity for young adults. As the brief points out, families that include at least one college graduate are much less likely to be in the lowest income and wealth brackets of society. Ensuring that access to high-quality public schools remains open to historically disadvantaged communities is even more important today as the cost of education and student debt continue to rise.
The brief also argues that admissions policies need to consider the challenges and objectives particular to each public institution and the states where they are located. It may be necessary for selective schools to take race into account, among many other characteristics, to ensure student bodies include meaningful racial diversity and educational benefits for all students.
The amicus brief was submitted in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin et al., which is scheduled for argument on Dec. 9, 2015. This case arises out of a constitutional challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s consideration of race as part of its undergraduate admissions process. The Supreme Court previously heard this case during the October 2012 term, but remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration. In 2012, the AG’s Office joined a multi-state brief supporting the University of Texas’s admissions policy.
The question now before the court is whether the University’s admissions program is narrowly tailored to achieve diversity and whether the University has met its burden of demonstrating that race-neutral alternatives are not adequate to achieve that goal.
Today’s brief was joined by a total of 18 jurisdictions including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
This matter was handled by Genevieve Nadeau, Deputy Chief of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Elizabeth Dewar, Assistant State Solicitor, Max Weinstein, Chief of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, and Assistant Attorneys General Jared Rinehimer and Kimberly Strovink.