With the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868, prohibiting states from passing laws that deny U.S. citizens from equal protection under the law, the Supreme Court has been obliged to provide decisions that are color-blind (U.S. Const. Amend XIV, § 1). However, the Court often viewed education as a state issue and was reluctant to get involved. That all changed in the 1954 Supreme Court decision known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In this ruling, it was decided that, “State-sanctioned segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment and was therefore constitutional” (National Archives, n.d.). It was at this time that the Supreme Court began to hear more cases regarding racial inequities in education, even when it came to private schools. Now, almost sixty years later, race is still an issue, but in a surprising way. The Court is beginning to hear cases where non-minority students are filing suit that they are subjected to discrimination based on their race, and are being denied admission to colleges and universities because they are not a minority. So, how do institutions of higher education balance the desire for diversity, while maintaining the spirit of the 14th Amendment? Also, what are the issues that may arise and how do schools ensure that their students are being treated equally?
Two recent Supreme Court cases involving non-minority students filing suit regarding being denied admission to two universities are the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger (539 U.S. 306) and the 2012 case of Fisher v. University of Texas (570 U.S.). In both these cases the non-minority students were not admitted to the universities involved due to the Supreme Court finding that “…diversity in higher education is a compelling state interest” (Gaertner & Hart, 2013, p. 367). Prior these cases, states had begun to look at socioeconomic diversity, in addition to racial diversity, in their admissions policies.
According to the article by Gaertner and Hart (2013), in 2008, Colorado was expected to defeat Amendment 46, which eliminated any “consideration of race in education, employment, and public contracting” (p. 369). In preparation for the decision, the University of Colorado at
Boulder began to look at other criterion, in addition to race, to promote diversity. They decided to focus on socioeconomic status since this was not protected under the Fourteenth Amendment and it promotes “authentic diversity and equal opportunity” (p. 371). They also wanted to be sure to maintain minority representation should race no longer be a consideration with the passage of Amendment 46.
A study was conducted that evaluated two traits in determining socioeconomic status. The first was the Overachievement Indices. This evaluated how a student’s test scores (e.g. ACT, SAT) and GPA compared with other students from the same socioeconomic background. The second was the Disadvantage Index. This evaluated criteria such...