Supreme Court to Decide on Affirmative Action

Maddy Snyder, Staff Editor/Writer

With seniors already looking forward to the start of college, a turning point in their lives, there is no better time to examine one of the most controversial (and ongoing) Supreme Court cases in college admissions history. 

In September of 2019, a group of Asian students sued Harvard University for using race as a contributing factor when accepting applicants- a process called affirmative action. The students claim the university’s use of affirmative action is unconstitutional and damaging to Asian applicants. The court agreed to hear the case in their 2022-2023 term but has yet to decide. 

Since the sixties, many colleges have used affirmative action in applications. Though many argue it violates The Constitution, affirmative action is justified by a need for diversity on campuses, as well as by the assumption that wealth and opportunity is unequal across racial lines. 

According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the median household income in 2021 was $101,418 for Asians, $77,999 for Whites, $57,981 for Hispanics, and $48,297 for Blacks. Household income drastically affects educational opportunity. Poor families typically live in poor neighborhoods and communities, where the only schools available are public and extremely under-funded. UNCF reports that only 57% of Black students have access to a full range of math and science courses necessary for college readiness, compared to 81% of Asian students and 71% of white students. 

Taking these statistics into account, it’s no surprise that most applicants to colleges like Harvard University are white and Asian. In fact, if race was disregarded in applications, Harvard’s campus would be almost devoid of diversity. To combat this, the university accepts a certain percentage of students of each race. This percentage is determined by comparing the number of applicants of each race to the overall percentage of that race in the population. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 59.3% of the population is white, 18.9% is Hispanic, 13.6% is Black, and 6.1% Asian. The number of admitted applicants per race reflects these statistics, meaning many Asian (and white, but to a lesser extent due to their overwhelming majority in the population) applicants are limited, while Black and Hispanic applicants are more frequently accepted. 

Eliminating administrative action would be devasting to Black and Hispanic students, continuing a cycle of inescapable poverty and lack of education. On the other hand, it is unfair that Asian students with immeasurable potential are stripped of the education they deserve to make way for others. The United States is conflicted between equality and equity.