Biden Admin Calls On Colleges To Find Loopholes To Affirmative Action

Colleges and universities are no longer allowed to use affirmative action in their admissions decisions, but that’s not stopping the Biden administration from encouraging them to find a way to promote racial diversity anyway.

On Monday, the Biden administration issued new guidance that urged institutions of higher learning to utilize strategies that would promote their racial diversity, even after the Supreme Court ruled that using affirmative action in admissions decisions was unconstitutional.

The new guidance says that colleges could focus on recruiting students who come from areas that have higher percentages of minorities, or could make efforts to retain current students of color. One way they could do that, according to the guidance, would be to offer affinity clubs that would be geared to students who were from a particular race.

The Biden administration also advised that even though affirmative action is no longer a valid practice, colleges could still consider an applicant’s race and how it has shaped their life experiences so far, through either letters of recommendation sent on their behalf or essays that are required to be submitted with applications.

In addition, the guidance advises the colleges to think about ending any policy that’s been known to stun diversity on campus, such as giving admissions preferences to children of big donors or to legacy students.

In a recent statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland said:
“Ensuring access to higher education for students from different backgrounds is one of the most powerful tools we have to prepare graduates to lead an increasingly diverse nation and make real our country’s promise of opportunity for all.”

The guidance was issued by both the Department of Justice – which Garland leads – as well as the Department of Education. It comes at a time when colleges are trying to figure out legal ways to promote racial diversity on campus without having their policies challenged in court by any opponents of affirmative action.

Students for Fair Admission is one of the most prominent of those groups. Their lawsuits against the University of North Carolina and Harvard were the ones that made their way to the Supreme Court and ultimately led to affirmative action being prohibited as part of college admissions processes.

Last month, the group sent a letter to 150 different colleges advising them that they must “take immediate steps to eliminate the use of race as a factor in admissions.”
Seemingly, that letter was a warning that if those colleges don’t take action, Students for Fair Admission might file legal action.

In the Biden administration’s latest guidance, it offered various policies that colleges could use “to achieve a student body that is diverse across a range of factors, including race and ethnicity.”

It also clarified how the colleges might consider race as part of the individual experience of an applicant. While the Supreme Court decision prevents colleges from taking race into account as a sole factor in admissions decisions, there’s nothing that bars these colleges from considering “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life,” as the high court wrote in its ruling.