The Intersection of Equality and Admissions: Analyzing the Court's Ruling of Title VI

The Court’s Ruling

Title VI is a federal civil rights law in the United States that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities that receive federal funding. On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Harvard and University of North Carolina violated the fourteenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Title VI based upon the use of race they applied in the admissions process.

It should be noted that while race cannot be used in and of itself as a factor in whether to admit a student, a student’s background or life experiences can be reviewed and considered, even if their experiences were shaped by their race. Ultimately, the Court ruled that the University of North Carolina’s assessment of students’ race specifically contravened the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Response

On August 14, 2023, the administration released a Dear Colleague Letter, calling on colleges, universities, and other stakeholders to provide students who have overcome adversity access to educational opportunities and help build a diverse study body. Research shows diversity leads to “livelier and more informative classroom discussions, breakdown of prejudices and increased cross-racial understanding, and heightened cognitive development and problem-solving skills.” Even beyond the walls of the classroom, diverse educational environments allow students to be “better prepared for our increasingly racially and ethnically diverse society and the global economy.”

The administration also provides a frequently asked questions document to inform institutions about the Court’s decision. This document covers information about the ruling and steps that institutions can take to help foster diverse environments and admissions processes.

What’s Next?

To help create diverse spaces, education institutions can partner with schools in underserved communities, support improved access to high quality advanced courses and develop programs focused on nurturing students’ potential.

RCM&D recommends that all higher education institutions review their current admissions process, policies and procedures to ensure they are aligned with the Supreme Court’s decision, ensuring the process is holistic and takes into account how the distinct backgrounds of applicants will enable them to make distinctive contributions to the campus community.

Learn More

In the wake of this ruling, we see a new era in education, where the commitment to fairness, equity, and diversity continues to guide our institutions and our society toward greater understanding, collaboration, and progress. RCM&D’s Education Practice is here to help guide you through these challenges. Reach out to a trusted advisor to learn more.