The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the University of Michigan’s affirmative action admissions system was illegal and could not be used. Michigan’s system was based on a points system in which factors like achievements, grades and race were worth a certain number of points. The Supreme Court said that giving a fixed value to race for admissions purposes was illegal. However, it also ruled that using unofficial affirmative action is acceptable.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that of the 29 schools affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling, 17 reported lower minority enrollment and 11 reported higher minority enrollment. It concluded that it is unclear as of now how the court’s ruling affected admissions policy nationwide.
This should be no surprise to anyone, considering how little the court actually clarified the legality of affirmative action. There is a very thin line between what was determined acceptable and illegal; Michigan could basically run the same system it had previously as long as it was not officialized.
Race will always be a factor in admissions and all facets of life. It’s just impossible for it not to be. But the Supreme Court’s ruling was a non-decision that sets no clear precedent. At least AU remains consistent in its admissions policies, considering race as a factor, but not the factor.