With the U.S. Supreme Court about to hear arguments in a case testing the University of Texas' consideration of race as an admissions factor, a new report says some states have found ways of diversifying their student bodies without falling back on skin color and ethnicity.The report, by researchers at The Century Foundation (tcf.org), argues for more-aggressive affirmative action that focuses on getting low-income and working-class students into college. "A Better Affirmative Action" highlights Texas' adoption of the "Top 10 Percent Law" as an example of a race-neutral program that has helped enroll more African-American and Hispanic students.That supports arguments that UT no longer needs to use race as an admissions criteria. But because the report isn't part of the record in the case of Abigail Fisher vs. University of Texas, it shouldn't sway the justices.Even though the report misnames former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales as "Gonzalez," it offers fodder worth considering in the broader debate over how universities can enroll student bodies that look like America and increase opportunities for the upward mobility that higher education makes possible.Seven states -- California, Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, Florida and New Hampshire -- have banned racial consideration in admissions.Authors Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter say universities have used "creative methods of assuring diversity" such as partnering with disadvantaged schools, looking at applicants' socioeconomic status, expanding financial aid and dropping legacy admissions that disproportionately helped privileged white students.Those are all good ideas, but are they enough?The question of what happens without affirmative action based on race and ethnicity looms over the Fisher case, which is set for arguments Wednesday.Because she wasn't a Top 10 percent high school graduate, Abigail Fisher didn't get automatically admitted to UT. She also wasn't selected from non-automatic applicants, then sued on reverse-discrimination grounds.The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year held that UT did not violate the Constitution.The justices could simply decide whether UT has followed standards set in a 2003 ruling that allowed use of race along with other factors to diversify the student body. But it's more likely the court will reconsider that 5-4 decision.That could remake college admissions. A decision is expected by spring.
"A Better Affirmative Action": Tcf.org/publications/pdfs/ABAA.pdf