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In Wake of Supreme Court Ruling on Affirmative Action, Local Universities Look For Ways to Maintain Student Diversity

Source: Winston Salem Journal

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of race as a factor in college admissions, ruling that admissions processes at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. 

Luke Tewalt, a junior at Wake Forest University, is worried about the effect the Supreme Court ruling will have on his university’s student body.

“When we don’t have that ability to look past just a test score, or just a grade, we lose out on so many different stories and unique opportunities to bring people who have different stories to Wake Forest, a place that really needs that,” he said. 

In response to the ruling, Tewalt’s college, Wake Forest University, is launching an initiative to lower admissions barriers for first-generation college students. According to the university, the plan will allow first-generation applicants to learn about their admittance earlier than others, while allowing them the ability to consider other schools’ admission offers and financial-aid options before making their final decision.

Meanwhile, UNC-Chapel Hill, one of the parties in the Supreme Court case, has announced that beginning with the incoming class in 2024, the university will provide free tuition and required fees for undergraduates from North Carolina whose families make less than $80,000 annually. 

“We want to make sure students know financial constraints should not stand in the way of their dreams,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said. According to the university, they have hired additional outreach officers to spread awareness of the new policy and to recruit students from across the state.

It remains to be seen whether these new policies will succeed in maintaining or increasing student diversity, especially at some of the nation’s most competitive universities. According to one analysis, states that tried eschewing race-based admissions even prior to the Supreme Court ruling have not seen success in their diversity efforts. In fact, the number of Black and Hispanic students attending state universities has dropped in states that have tried to increase diversity at schools without using race-based admissions policies.

The Biden administration is urging students of color not to be dismayed. 

“I want to send a message to all aspiring students, especially Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and other students from underserved communities,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said earlier this summer.

“We see you and we need you. Do not let this ruling deter you from pursuing your educational potential,” he said.

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