High Court Ruling Could Affect Virginia College Admissions

Tyler Arnold | November 17, 2022

(The Center Square) – As the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on the constitutionality of certain affirmative action policies in college and university admissions, a change to current precedent could affect admissions in Virginia.

Current Supreme Court precedent allows higher education institutions to give some weight to an applicant’s race, but that consideration cannot be the determinative factor in the student’s admission or non-admission. Although the commonwealth’s colleges and universities abide by this standard, many analysts expect that the Court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority, could overturn or scale back that affirmative action precedent.

Slightly more than half of Virginia’s four-year public higher education institutions consider an applicant’s race as a factor when determining admissions. Although certain universities put more weight on race than others, some or all of these policies could be determined to be unconstitutional, depending on the language written in the final decision.

However, Stephen Haner, a former member of the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, told The Center Square that enforcement may be difficult, even if the Supreme Court rules against the practice.

“Absent an enforcement mechanism or some remedy available to rejected students, I doubt the universities will change their admissions practices,” Haner said. “Should the court seek to prevent any form of race-conscious admission, I do not see the Biden Administration participating in any effort at enforcement. Setting up such an enforcement process would create its own set of headaches. So such a ruling would just start another set of issues, and it would be up to individual state higher education leaders or the schools themselves to change course. Most won’t be eager to comply.”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases that address affirmative action last week.