AUSTIN (AP) – The University of Texas filed a brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court defending its use of race as one the standards in its admissions policies.
Abigail Fisher, a white student who was not admitted to the school in 2008, filed a lawsuit challenged the policy as violation of her civil and constitutional rights. The Supreme Court agreed in February to consider the case, setting the stage for its first ruling on affirmative action in higher education since 2003.
The case is being watched closely for a broad ruling that could impact admissions policy at public and private universities nationwide.
Texas admits most of its students because they rank among the top 10 percent in their high school classes. For other students, Texas officials say that race is considered among many factors, including academic record, personal essays, leadership potential, extracurricular activities, and honors and awards. The school says race is not used to set quotas, which the high court has previously rejected.
The school says its policy, first used in 2005, conforms to a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that upheld racial considerations in university admissions at the University of Michigan Law School.
“This policy allows us to gain the benefits of a diverse student body,” university President Bill Powers said in a video statement. “We’re confident we will prevail in this case.”
The Texas policy has been upheld by federal appeals courts. Fisher pressed her claims to the Supreme Court, where a more conservative court that than the one that ruled in 2003 could jettison that decision or at least limit when colleges may take account of race in admissions.
Before adopting race as part of its admission policy, Texas’ student body was 21 percent African-American and Hispanic. By 2007, the year before Fisher filed her lawsuit, African-Americans and Hispanics accounted for more than a quarter of the entering freshman class.
Fisher’s challenge says the Top Ten Percent law was already working to increase student diversity.
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