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Continuing to Advance Diversity and Opportunity in Higher Education

On June 29, the Supreme Court held, in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. University of North Carolina et al. (collectively SFFA), that the consideration of race in the admissions practices of the University of North Carolina and Harvard College violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance, including those conducted by colleges and universities. 

Since that time, Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Department of Education’s (ED) Office for Civil Rights have worked together on a resource for those colleges and universities affected by the decision. Today, the Departments jointly release this resource, consisting of a Dear Colleague Letter and a Questions and Answers document, that distills the Court’s core holding and offers examples of steps colleges and universities can lawfully take to achieve a student body that is diverse across a range of factors, including race and ethnicity. Educational institutions must ensure that their admissions practices do not create barriers for students based on any protected characteristics, including race. 

Across the government, we remain firmly committed to equitable educational opportunities for all students, and ensuring that students of color are not denied opportunities to participate in the robust exchange of ideas and experiences that are the keystone of college and university life. How an applicant’s racial identity – as well as other aspects of their social identity – impact their development, goals or educational interests remain important considerations in university admissions.

The Cover Letter issued by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at ED Catherine E. Lhamon can be found here. In addition, the corresponding Questions and Answers document can be found here.

Updated August 14, 2023

Civil Rights