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SCOTUS sends affirmative action case back to lower court

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The U.S. Supreme Court side-steps a sweeping decision on the use of race in college admissions processes.

The justices kicked Abigail Fisher's case against the University of Texas back to the lower court. Fisher sued the school and claimed the school didn't admit her partly because she's white.

The college factors in race, as well as test scores and student activities to help select its freshman class. Lawyers for the school argued the policy is necessary to improve diversity.

Justices ruled 7-to-1 to conclude the lower appeals court didn't use the right standard to decide if the university's policy is constitutional. So now they want the appeals court to take another look at the case.

"I think it just kicked the can down the road and said ‘We're not going to change anything right now, but we're not going to let anyone rest comfortably either,'" says Brad Lockerbie, the chairperson of ECU's Political Science Dept.

So, what does this mean for colleges in Eastern North Carolina?

John Fletcher, the associate provost for enrollment services at ECU, told 9 On Your Side it won't affect his campus at all because ECU has never had an affirmative action policy.

"We have really good diversity compared with other institutions across the state that are similar to ECU,"
Fletcher says. "And so there really has not been a need to have a plan for affirmative admissions."

Instead, Fletcher says ECU helps create diversity by recruiting and encouraging minority applicants. But he says students are then admitted solely based on test scores, high school GPA, class rank and minimum course requirements – not race, gender, or ethnicity.

Fletcher says a holistic review is only completed for students who are rejected admission and appeal it. He says they can ask for the admissions committees to consider specific factors like family income, after-school jobs and if they are the first person in their family to apply to college.

ECU had 21,298 undergraduates enrolled during the fall of 2012. Here's how those students identified:

"Nonresident Alien" – 200

"Race and Ethnicity Unknown" – 770

"Hispanics of Any Race" – 611

"American Indian or Alaska Native" – 110

"Asian" – 512

"Black or African American" – 3,153

"Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander" – 20

"White" – 15,404

"Two or More Races" – 518

--- Original Story ---

With a 7-1 vote, the Supreme Court of the United States sent a case concerning affirmative action and college admissions back to a lower court.

This case comes out of Texas where a white girl claimed she wasn't accepted despite being qualified. She said affirmative action gave her an unfair disadvantage.

Today's decision leaves unsettled many of the basic questions about the continued use of race as a factor in college admissions.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, says a federal appeals court needs to subject the University of Texas admission plan to the highest level of judicial scrutiny.

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