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Kentucky higher education officials weigh in on Supreme Court decision on Affirmative Action

Sierra Harris

Higher education officials in Kentucky said their institutions should not be impacted by the recent affirmative action ruling by the Supreme Court. However, some scholarships could be impacted in the future.

On June 29, the Supreme Court struck down race-based college and university admission policies. The decision sets a precedent that could see other race-based decision making challenged.

In Kentucky, no universities use race-based admission policies in their enrollment program and racial quotas have been illegal for decades. Most universities use a variety of different factors to promote diversity within their admission processes. Those include ethnicity, zip code, income level, gender, religion, and more.

Regardless, the recent SCOTUS decision makes it completely illegal for universities to use race as a factor in admission decisions at all.

Travis Powell is Vice President and General Counsel at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. He said some language in the ruling did not entirely remove race from the admissions process.

“There was a phrase in the Supreme Court decision that talked about, there was nothing prohibiting a campus from considering, when looking at an applicant, course this was in the context of admissions, to consider how race has impacted their life in some form or fashion and writing about that in a narrative way,” said Powell.

Kentucky officials said some race-based minority scholarships could be next to go. All race-based institutional classifications, including institutional minority scholarships, could be struck down if challenged in court. Private and non-profit minority scholarships will remain unaffected.

Officials at Morehead State University said the decision will not change their mission. President Jay Morgan said he is dedicated to continue to promote diversity across the university.

“The law changes, then we would obviously change. But I feel very confident sitting here with you today and saying we have zero intentions of changing our scholarships to minority populations. Zero intent, meaning we’re going to continue to offer what we have offered before, trying to get students from diverse populations here,” said Morgan.

Similar to other Kentucky schools, MSU is an open enrollment university and does not have any race-based policies or quotas within their admissions program.

From the CPE perspective, Travis Powell said all Kentucky schools are going to continue to promote diversity and acceptance on their campuses.

“In no way does the decision diminish our goals of supporting diversity on our campuses. It’s not the end of the story with that. That commitment is still there, we want our campuses to be open for anybody that wants to come. We want everybody that comes to any of our campuses in Kentucky to feel like they belong,” said Powell.

The SCOTUS decision was made in two rulings. Students for Fair Admissions v Harvard received a vote of 6-2, and Students for Fair Admissions v University of North Carolina received a vote of 6-3. More information can be found here.