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June 24th, 2013
06:22 PM ET

University of Texas president defends admissions practices after Supreme Court ruling

The future of race-conscious college admissions remains unclear after the Supreme Court tossed Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin back to the lower courts for further review.

The ruling upheld the use of race in the admissions process, but chastised the lower court for not applying "strict scrutiny" in the case. Colleges and universities will now be required to demonstrate that there are no other methods of achieving diversity without considering race.

Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas at Austin in 2012 claiming she was unfairly rejected for admission, compared to accepted but less-qualified minority students. It sounds like a David and Goliath tale, one girl taking on a well-known research intensive university, but she didn’t act alone. Fisher was hand-picked by conservative activist Edward Blum, whose group continues to bankroll the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court did not give a sweeping verdict Monday, but Fisher and her supporters appear undaunted.

"I'm very honored, and we've got more work to do, but I'm looking forward to the next steps in this process,” she said. “Of course we're happy with it, but they gave us everything that we asked for, and I'm very confident that UT won't be able to use race in the future."

The University of Texas at Austin also remains steadfast.

“We will continue to defend our admissions practices and litigate this case. We think they are necessary to achieve the kind of educations our students deserve and our state deserves and our country deserves,” William Powers, Jr., President of the University of Texas at Austin told CNN Monday.

Powers went on to say that the university’s policy fully satisfies the new obligation of proving the need for race-conscious admissions.

“The standard the court used, the strict scrutiny standard, which is generally applicable in cases of race, is the standard that we have litigated this case and designed our program with an eye to all along. We think we meet that standard, and will meet that standard when we go back to the fifth circuit,” Powers said.

The school does have another plan in which the top 10% of high school graduates across the state are automatically admitted. Seventy-five percent of each year’s class is made up of students admitted by this rule, which also ensures a diverse student body. But Powers said it’s not enough.

“Using it alone does not achieve the kind of diversity that’s necessary to give our students an education, all of our students, not just our minority students, the education they need to work in an increasingly diverse work place and world,” said Powers.

Powers noted that race is not the only factor taken into account. The University of Texas at Austin uses a holistic approach, also considering students finances and family history of college education.

“But race continues to be an issue, in America,” he said. “We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress over the last 50 years in our country…and higher education has been a huge part in helping diversify our country, along with the military, along with a lot of people in the workforce.”

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