AUSTIN, Texas — The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in higher education will have "no impact" on the University of Texas' admissions policy, school president Bill Powers said Monday, noting UT will continue to use race as a factor in some cases.
The University of Texas was sued in 2008 by Abigail Fisher, who is white, for being denied admission. Instead of a landmark decision on affirmative action, the Supreme Court instead voted 7-1 to tell a lower appeals court to take another look at Fisher's lawsuit.
Powers said he was "encouraged" by the ruling that left the use of affirmative action in admissions intact while the lower court considers the case.
Powers said the admissions policy was crafted after previous Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action, and the school would continue to defend the policy against Fisher's lawsuit. Texas has used the race-inclusive admission policy since 2005.
"Today's ruling will have no impact on admissions decisions we have already made or any immediate impact on our holistic admissions policies," Powers said.
UT admits most of its students under a state law requiring admission for students that rank among the top 8 percent in their class. For other students, race is considered among many factors, including academic record, personal essays, leadership potential, extracurricular activities, and honors and awards.
The school says race is not used to set quotas, which the Supreme Court previously rejected.
Before using race as a factor, Texas' student body was 21 percent African-American and Hispanic. By 2007, African-Americans and Hispanics accounted for more than a quarter of the entering freshman class.
Fisher's lawsuit argued the automatic admissions process achieved the diversity the university wants. More than 8 in 10 African-American and Latino students who enrolled at the flagship campus in Austin in 2011 were automatically admitted, according to university statistics.
White students constituted less than half the entering class when students with Asian backgrounds and other minorities were added in.
Fisher has since graduated from Louisiana State University.
"I am grateful to the justices for moving the nation closer to the day when a student's race isn't used at all in college admissions," Fisher said Monday in a statement issued by her attorney.
Civil rights groups that supported the university's admission policy said they were confident it will survive further court review.
"This is a win for the principles of opportunity, diversity, and equality," said of Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. "It will be critically important that the voices of students — those most affected by the policy — be fully heard at any re-hearing."