May 27, 2024

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SCOTUS decision will have little effect on Kansas college admissions

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A Supreme Court decision in late June will have little effect on college admissions in Kansas according to the Kansas Board of Regents.

On June 27, 2023, an historic decision by the United States Supreme Court effectively ended decades of race-conscious admissions at colleges and universities across the country.

However, where those standards made the most differences were at highly-selective universities such as Harvard — where one of the cases originated.

The Regents system in Kansas, on the other hand, are “qualified admissions” schools.

“Because Kansas uses qualified admissions, the Supreme Court’s ruling will likely have minimal impact on our system,” KBOR Chair Jon Rolph said in an emailed statement. “Through qualified admissions, applicants to state universities in Kansas must meet minimum GPA or ACT requirements. If they do, they are guaranteed admission regardless of other factors.”

Harvard, as an example, rejects most applicants, and its admissions process was found to unfairly advantage African Americans and Hispanics, while disadvantaging white and Asian students.

A study, included in court documents as part of the case, found that as non-profit education news site “ reported: “The acceptance gaps between categories are largest around the middle of the spectrum for academic qualifications, with African Americans applying to Harvard being accepted at a rate double that of Hispanics — and 12 times greater than Asian Americans — at the fifth decile (i.e., between the 41st and 50th percentile of qualifications). For out-of-state applicants to UNC, African Americans at the fifth decile were almost 33 times more likely to be accepted than Asian Americans and 14 times more likely than whites.”

Rolph said, while Kansas Universities remain committed to diversity, the difference in the admissions process makes things much different.

“State universities are committed to recruiting and serving students from traditionally underserved populations, but the nature of qualified admissions makes their admissions processes substantially different than highly selective institutions that reject a large percentage of applicants,” he said.

Carveout leaves wiggle room

In the majority opinion Chief Justice John Roberts said universities must use colorblind criteria — as Kansas’ qualified admission system does.

“Many universities have for too long…concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin,” he wrote. “Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

However, Roberts also carved out a little room to get around that colorblindness.

“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life,” he wrote.

A statement from Harvard University read, in part, “The Court … ruled that colleges and universities may consider in admissions decisions ‘an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.’ We will certainly comply with the Court’s decision.”

The statement reiterated the school’s commitment to “diversity.”

Harvard’s statement went on to note — seemingly to try to discredit the most recent ruling — that two previous federal courts had upheld the university’s admissions policies. However that is irrelevant, given the Supreme Court disagreed with those lower courts.

“In the weeks and months ahead, drawing on the talent and expertise of our Harvard community, we will determine how to preserve, consistent with the Court’s new precedent, our essential values,” the statement read.


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