The Supreme Court will examine the significance of race during the college admission process for the second time this decade. During the case Fisher v. Texas, which will be heard by the end of spring 2012, the judicial system will determine to what extent universities and colleges may take race into account when admitting students. The results could potentially impact all public higher education institutions and some private institutions.
As a private school, Elon doesn’t have the same constraints, said Robert Parrish, assistant professor of law at Elon’s School of Law.
“But Elon does receive some federal funding and, depending on the types of federal funding received, it may impact recruiting and admitting minority students,” he said.
The education model in Texas differs from that in North Carolina. In Texas, the top 10 percent of students are automatically admitted into the public higher education system. It’s only after this 10 percent is admitted that race is allowed to be calculated into the admissions process. Without measures like these, the number of racially-diverse students will decrease, Parrish said.
The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, just missed the 10 percent mark and she claims she was not admitted into the University of Texas because she is white.
Cindy Barr, assistant dean of admissions, said she is not sure how the court’s decision will impact Elon, but she said the school would be able to adjust without much change.
But for public schools, the number of black and Hispanic students is likely to decrease.
When admitting students, Elon focuses on the academic courses and the rigor of those courses, Barr said.
“So the academic piece is the rigor of coursework and how well you have done on your test scores,” she said. “If I had to approximate it, that is about 75 percent of how we base our decisions. The rest comes from the heart of the student: how you spent your time outside of the classroom, leadership, service, your admissions essay and your counselor recommendation.”
Under Elon’s strategic plan, The Elon Commitment, the university has focused on increasing diversity on campus. This includes diversity of religion, race, geography, ethnicity and thought, Barr said. When looking at prospective students, all of these aspects are taken into consideration in the same way a legacy student is considered or an athlete or a performer.
Elon is looking at the entire student and not filling quotas or filling a particular number, Barr said.
The Office of Admissions does have a director of multicultural recruitment and the department ensures the admissions team that travels to speak to students does reach out diverse students, Barr said. That means traveling to diverse locations and being present at college fairs that target minorities, she said.
Since The Elon Commitment was imlemented, the number of students who are considered racially diverse has increased, and the freshman class is 15 percent racially diverse, referring to students that are not white.
In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 in Grutter v. Bollinger that public colleges and universities could not use a point system or quota to increase the number of minority schools, but could instead take race into account in smaller ways to ensure academic diversity. Since then, the makeup of the Supreme Court has changed and the bench is considered more conservative.