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University of Texas Affirmative Action Survives Another Round At Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the University of Texas' affirmative action program by a 4-3 vote.

The court rejected Abigail Fisher's claim that she was unfairly discriminated against because she was white, and therefore denied admission in 2008. She argued in a lawsuit that black and Hispanic students, who were less qualified, were admitted into the university, according to The Texas Tribune.

The university considers race among many factors in admitting the last quarter of incoming freshmen classes.

On UT's Policy From NPR

"It's worth noting that UT's admission policy is complex: Most of its in-state students are admitted based on a policy of guaranteed admission to the top students of every high school. The rest are admitted using a combination of factors that include academic achievement and race and ethnicity. That part of the admissions process is what was being challenged in court."

Another part of the holding rejects Fisher's claim that the university did not need to consider race because it had already achieved a critical mass using the Top Ten Percent Plan, according to the SCOTUS blog.

Texas fills most of the freshman class by guaranteeing admission to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their Texas high school class.

The Opinion

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, said universities should be afforded wide latitude in achieving intangible "qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness," according to NPR. Kennedy wrote that UT should be allowed to serve as a kind of laboratory to experiment with these kinds of policies, but should continually reassess its admissions program.

Here's the 75-page opinion from the court on the case. 

Excerpt From UT President Gregory L. Fenves' Statement

"I am thrilled and gratified by today’s ruling that recognizes the constitutionality of the university’s admissions policy. The court has affirmed UT’s efforts to develop a diverse student body that brings with it educational benefits for all students. Our pursuit of excellence is grounded in the university’s public mission to provide the highest quality education for every student. Diversity is essential to carry out that mission. The educational benefits of diversity for all students enhance The University of Texas at Austin, the higher education community, and the nation."

The Associated Press, NPR and The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.