Diversity in Admissions

The Issue

​​​​​Achieving equitable access to college for communities of color has been a critical goal for higher education since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Higher Education Act in 1965. So too has been recognizing and protecting institutional autonomy and freedom to construct a diverse campus that generates educational benefits for its students and allows it to fulfill its educational mission.

Diversity can mean different things to different campuses, from putting together a student body that has artists, dancers, tuba players, students from other countries, and athletes for its sports teams, to offering admission to students from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and racial and ethnic backgrounds. It is that range of individuals that leads to the educational benefits that accrue to students from being in a setting where they are surrounded by people of differing backgrounds and perspectives and who are interested in different things.

The Council has worked to promote diversity in higher education since its early days. In 1946, ACE included recommendations for removing barriers to higher education for racial, religious, and handicap minorities in its Presidential Commission on Higher Education for President Harry S. Truman. In 1962, ACE formed the Committee on Equality of Educational Opportunity in the wake of issues that were raised during the integration of the University of Mississippi. Two years later, ACE established the Office of Urban Affairs, which evolved into the Office of Minorities in Higher Education. The office issued reports and publications on access and diversity on campuses, continuing a priority area for research first established in the 1940s.

Time and again, ACE has echoed the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmations of the benefits of campus diversity summarized most recently in its second ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (Fisher II) in 2016: “the destruction of stereotypes, the promotion of cross-racial understanding, the preparation of a student body for an increasingly diverse workforce and society, and the cultivation of a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry.”

ACE also is a strong proponent of colleges and universities having the ability to define for themselves, within broad limits, the diversity that will produce the educational benefits they seek for all their students, including the consideration of race in admissions. Contemporary admissions policies in support of this goal have faced numerous legal challenges. In five different decisions over the past four decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has held in favor of the holistic consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions as one of many factors, affirming the argument and research that shows student body diversity bestows myriad educational benefits.

ACE submitted amicus briefs in most of these cases, including the 2003 University of Michigan cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, as well as the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, which was decided by the Supreme Court in 2013 and again when Fisher appealed and the Court again sided with the university in 2016 (known as Fisher II). In 2018, ACE and 36 higher education groups filed an amicus brief opposing the most current challenge to diversity in admissions policies, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., v. Harvard. More on these more recent cases below.

Our Work
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
Resources on the legal challenges to race-conscious admissions, ACE’s amicus briefs in support of UT and more.