North Carolina Expands Financial Aid Following Affirmative Action Ruling


A building at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. North Carolina is one of many universities dealing with a changed admissions landscape post-Affirmative Action.

Photo Credit: Official University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Facebook page

Following the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision that its admissions policy violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause outlined in the 14th Amendment, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has expanded its financial aid packages. The university is going to provide free tuition to more low and middle-income families, a move that seems designed to respond to the court’s ruling against their admissions policy. According to the Washington Post, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz released a statement affirming the university’s compliance with the ruling: “We will follow the Supreme Court’s decision in all respects. That means race will not be a factor in admissions decisions at the University. It also means we will comply with the Court’s ruling that an applicant’s lived racial experience cannot be credited as ‘race for race’s sake,’ but instead under some circumstances may illuminate an individual’s character and contributions.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, universities are going to have to find creative ways at increasing the diversity of their enrollment. In the absence of alumni setting aside endowments and dictating exactly how they are used, the only real way to ensure some kind of diversity is going to be enacting some kind of race-neutral policy. To that end, some university officials have expressed concern that the end of directly considering race in its admission process will lead to a significant drop in Black and Latino students. As it relates to North Carolina, a large number of the students that fall within the income threshold it proposes are also white, which means it may also prove ineffective at broadening the ethnicity of the university’s admitted applicants.

Guskiewicz promised that the university would cover the tuition of those attending the university whose families make less than $80,000 a year, but that change will not go into effect until 2024. This comes as there are already cases in lower courts designed to undermine “race-neutral” policies that are designed to increase diversity. A case in Virginia’s U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is the first of what could be many challenges to policies that are aimed at making campuses more diverse. A conservative, single-issue advocacy group called Coalition for TJ challenged that Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s revised admissions process unfairly discriminated against Asian-American students. Originally, a ruling in favor of the group was issued, but the ruling was appealed and they lost that appeal.

Judge Robert King discusses the group’s lack of evidence in his opinion: “Under the challenged admissions policy, Asian American applicants to TJ enjoy far greater success in securing offers of admission than do prospective students from any other racial or ethnic group. Thus, the Coalition’s remarkable efforts to twist TJ’s admissions statistics and to prove a disproportionate, adverse impact on Asian American students fall flat. By the same token, the Coalition’s contention that the Board’s aim to expand access to TJ and to enhance the overall diversity of TJ’s student population constitutes per se intentional racial discrimination against Asian American students simply runs counter to common sense.”

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