“It took Republicans no time at all to take the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision and use it to attack other educational initiatives intended to support people of color.” In their latest move, the GOP is taking the affirmative action battle beyond the admissions process to now trying to eliminate college scholarships for minorities.
As Rolling Stone reported, Missouri’s attorney general, Andrew Bailey, dispatched a letter to colleges and universities across the state, stating that “Missouri institutions must identify all policies that give preference to individuals on the basis of race and immediately halt the implementation of such policies.”
The exact same day of the landmark ruling, Eli Capilouto, President of the University of Kentucky said, “We are still reviewing the details of the ruling, but, based on our initial understanding, it appears that the court has restricted the consideration of race with respect to admissions and scholarships.”
The University of Missouri system also put out a statement, “As allowed by prior law, a small number of our programs and scholarships have used race/ethnicity as a factor for admissions and scholarships,” continuing “Those practices will be discontinued, and we will abide by the new Supreme Court ruling concerning legal standards that applies to race-based admissions and race-based scholarships.
“Other colleges are expected to follow suit, as many face political pressure to make changes following the court’s ruling,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Robin Vos, Wisconsin’s Speaker of the House tweeted out last week that “Lawmakers ‘will introduce legislation to correct the discriminatory laws on the books and pass repeals in the fall.”
This is highly alarming, especially considering that last week’s Supreme Court decision on affirmative action did not directly address race-based scholarships. But one line from the decision from Students for Fair Admissions v. The President and Fellows of Harvard University is being used as justification—“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”
From a legal standpoint, an interpretation of this kind, which is inciting the removal of “race as a criteria in scholarship programs,” is a dangerous slippery slope.
“Virtually all race-exclusive scholarships were already illegal as I understand the law…it is correct that race-exclusive fellowships, scholarships, and general educational programs must end,” said Edward Blum, the man behind the affirmative action lawsuits.
Opponents of these rash actions include the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators president and CEO Justin Draeger. Draeger said his organization has not advised on these changes and is urging “colleges to act carefully after they have had time to study the decision.”
“We first and foremost pointed out that the SCOTUS opinion was squarely focused on institutions’ admissions policies,” stated Draeger. “We also pointed out to schools that the highest court in the country took months to deliberate on this issue, and schools should similarly consider any implications on financial aid. This ruling came from a long and deliberate process, and we urged schools to be careful about overreacting and encouraged them to consult with their attorneys and await forthcoming guidance from the Department of Education before significantly altering their student aid programs,” he told Inside Higher Ed.