Students, admissions professionals, and social justice advocates are standing by for a landmark Supreme Court decision that will determine if affirmative action will be upheld or overturned. The decision is expected by the end of June 2023 regarding Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard, and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. Both cases argue against the current legal precedent upon which higher education admission practices, policies and goals are based. The Supreme Court has rejected the previous two arguments from Edward Blum who leads Student for Fair Admissions (SFFA), but removing affirmative action would be anything but fair to those who will be impacted the most, historically underrepresented students. Accelerated Equity Insights supports a decision to uphold the current laws, as the original tenants of affirmative action remain relevant today.

“Far too many students are left out of higher education. It’s imperative that leaders commit to holding colleges and universities accountable to admitting diverse student bodies. In order to do so, we need greater transparency in college admissions. By expanding the breadth of admissions data collected and disaggregating it by race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, the Department of Education would shine a light on which schools are serving as gatekeepers to privilege and which schools are making a commitment to equity and social mobility,” said Shakira Petit, Interim CEO, Education Reform Now.

With this in mind, here are some actions Universities can take:

Action Steps

1- Create a cross-functional commission that is firmly rooted in your mission and vision and can participate in your intake process 

In this commission, you can identify the areas or programs that might be at risk as a result of their closeness to the admissions process. Involve your stakeholders to prepare responses through planning, impact, investment, and communication.

2- Examine your current recruitment process

Your current recruitment process may be impacted, so look for chances to expand or reimagine target regions and high school types as well as build relationships with external stakeholders.

3- Ensure that financial aid and scholarship policies are clearly outlined

These policies may also be impacted by the SCOTUS decision. Having them clearly outlined will allow your institution to quickly reference how these might be impacted.

4- Conduct an inventory of where race is used, or referenced, in your enrollment process

This inventory will allow a quick reference on which part of your enrollment process may be impacted.

5- Examine your application process 

While examining, see if the review criteria, application essays, personal statements, or supplemental questions need to be changed if race can no longer be used in admissions. 

6- Evaluate current admissions policies 

Utilize information, advice from internal and external stakeholders, and data to evaluate current admissions policies and practices in light of current law and to identify any potential changes that may be required.

Taking these steps will allow your university to be prepared for when the decision comes out. Now, let’s address some of the misconceptions that are present with affirmative action.

Misconceptions of Affirmative Action

There are two prominent misconceptions about affirmative action:

Misconception #1: Quotas are being utilized in affirmative action strategies

Reality: The truth is that quotas—established minimum or maximum numbers for people from a specific racial, gender, or religious category—have been illegal in the United States since 1978 and are not utilized in any of the current affirmative action strategies. Affirmative action programs seek equitable representation for people from many protected categories, including gender, ethnicity, and disability, rather than giving a particular or special preference or advantage to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) people. In fact, over the last 50 years, white women have been the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action. Furthermore, race is only one of many factors that admissions officers take into account when creating an incoming class at colleges and universities; others include an applicant’s hometown, athleticism, socioeconomic status, or connections to alumni, donors, or university staff.

Misconception #2: Affirmative action discriminates against Asian Americans

Reality: “Right now, a common fallacy is that race-conscious admissions discriminate against Asian Americans by creating a cap on their admission. That argument is at the heart of the case Students for Fair Admissions has lodged against Harvard University, but it’s not born out by the facts. In fact, scholars of Asian American politics have noted that the percentage of Asian American applicants admitted to Harvard has increased 29 percent in the last ten years and that Asian Americans make up over 20 percent of Harvard’s student population.” said Literature professor Sara Clarke Kaplan, executive director of AU’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center. In addition, Asian Americans have been calling for affirmative action since the 1950s following the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Since then, they have helped higher education open for excluded communities of color and benefited from affirmative action programs.


Taking action to review current policies will allow you to be more informed when a decision is made. Brainstorming potential ways to adjust will allow for much-needed conversations with your stakeholders and help you feel more prepared. Together we will get to the other side of this. Stay tuned for more information and resources from us here at Accelerated Equity Insights by signing up for our newsletter.


Chang, J. (2023, April 13). Asian Americans spent decades seeking fair education. Then the right stole the narrative. The Guardian.

Housman, P. The Upcoming Supreme Court Ruling on Affirmative Action: Why It Matters. (2023, April 12). American University.

Jaschik, S. (2023, February, 5). Colleges start to prepare for losing Supreme Court case. Inside Higher Ed | Higher Education News, Events and Jobs.

NEWS: Ahead of Two College Admissions Supreme Court Cases, Bowman, Merkley, Wilson Urge Department of Education to Address Racial and Ethnic Gaps in Higher Education. (2023, March 7). Congressman Jamaal Bowman.

The Access and Diversity Collaborative’s Action Guide for Higher Education. (2023). College Board.


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