The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a long-awaited affirmative action case today, providing only narrow legal guidance to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and offering little direction to colleges and universities as to how race can be considered in college admissions.

The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 1 that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals erred by not applying “strict scrutiny” to the admission policies of the University of Texas at Austin (UT).

Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was rejected for admission to UT, had brought the case against UT, claiming the university had violated her rights because of the role race played in UT’s admissions  decision. Fisher’s lawyers argued that UT didn’t need to consider race in admissions because it had found other ways to encourage student body diversity.

The Supreme Court Justices wrote that UT’s “good faith” alone is not sufficient to justify the consideration of race in its admissions practices, but that it needed to provide compelling evidence to justify race as an admission criterion. The Court did not address the evidence of UT admission policies themselves, but criticized the Fifth Circuit for not addressing that question in its review of the case and for not using the high bar of “strict scrutiny” when evaluating the constitutionality of this race-related question.

The case, which has been closely watched by American colleges and universities, will now return to the Fifth Circuit and may come back to the Supreme Court before the issue is finally settled.

Read more about the case here.

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