Posted on January 27, 2022

Black, Latino Students Could See Outsize Effect from Affirmative Action Decision

Tat Bellamy-Walker, NBC News, January 26, 2022

Experts say that Black and Latino students would suffer disproportionately if the Supreme Court decides to reverse a long-standing policy on affirmative action programs in the U.S.

On Monday, the Supreme Court said it would hear two cases challenging race-conscious admissions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

If the court rules against race-conscious college admissions programs, also known as affirmative action, it could have an outsize effect on Black and Latino college students.

One of the most comprehensive studies on the issue, published in 2020, found that Black and Latino students suffered after California’s public universities banned affirmative action in a 1996 ballot initiative. Following the ban, more students of color enrolled at less selective institutions and, as a result, were less likely to get college degrees, graduate degrees or jobs in the STEM fields.


Cara McClellan, an assistant counsel at the NAACPs Legal and Education Defense Fund, said it would be unusual for the court to go against years of upholding affirmative action.

“Any ruling that calls into question the legality of race-conscious admissions would be a huge reversal of more than 40 years of Supreme Court precedent,” McClellan said. “It would be quite a radical act for that to be the outcome.”

Such an outcome, McClellan said, would dramatically reduce racial diversity at private and public universities.

“The end of holistic admissions would lead to a severe reduction in the number of Black and Latino students at Harvard and, if the ruling is broader, at other universities,” McClellan said. “Race-conscious admissions has been key to providing diversity on campus.”

Natasha Warikoo, a professor of sociology at Tufts University and author of “The Diversity Bargain,” said Black and Latino students who do get into more selective schools would also feel the brunt of a reversal.

“They will have a much smaller community of same-race peers, and are more likely to be the only underrepresented minority in a class and have less access to social networks that we know are important for students of color on their college campuses,” Warikoo said. {snip}