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Affirmative Action and College Admissions

- November 17, 2017
Should racial and ethnic preferences continue?
Featured Report

The Supreme Court has upheld the use of race in college admissions, but affirmative action is facing new challenges. Many whites continue to oppose giving preference to minorities to compensate for discrimination and to diversify campuses, and the Trump administration says it may sue universities practicing “intentional” discrimination. Several critics question affirmative action's effectiveness, citing minorities' continued under-representation at elite universities. But affirmative action's defenders say it has helped raise minority representation on campuses, and that most universities rely on a “holistic” admissions approach that looks at applicants' public service, creativity and other attributes, as well as race. Georgetown and other schools are pursuing innovative ways to diversify their student bodies, such as admitting the descendants of slaves owned by their institutions. Meanwhile, activist Edward Blum has filed numerous suits challenging laws and policies that favor minorities over whites.

Spending Cutbacks

Federal agencies are reducing enforcement of civil rights laws and regulations.

State-Level Lawsuits

Universities are fending off affirmative-action lawsuits.

1960sAffirmative action becomes federal policy.
1978–1995Courts, presidents revise affirmative-action rules.
1996–2009Voters alter affirmative action.
2011-PresentOpposition to affirmative action escalates.

Should affirmative action be based on income instead of race?


Richard D. Kahlenberg
Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation, and Editor, The Future of Affirmative Action.


Richard Rothstein
Author, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.


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