Affirmative action: Trump 'to scrap' college racial bias policy

Trump Administration to Rescind Obama Guidelines on Race in College Admissions

On Tuesday, the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era policy that encouraged schools to consider race in college admissions and student assignment in K-12 schools.

The move comes as the Justice Department is investigating whether Harvard University is illegally discriminating against Asian-American students by holding them to a higher standard in its admissions process.

The guidelines, put in place under President Barack Obama in 2011 and 2016, presented legal recommendations that Trump administration officials contend "mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than the law allows", the Journal reported, citing two people familiar with the plans.

The new guidance will not have the force of law, but schools will presumably be able to defend themselves from lawsuits by following administration policy.

Greg Orwig, Whitworth's vice president for admissions and financial aid, added that race, ethnicity and citizenship "are a few factors among many others considered in our holistic application review process".

The shift gives schools and colleges the federal government's blessing to leave race out of admissions and enrollment decisions and underscores the contentious politics that for decades have surrounded affirmation action policies, which have repeatedly been challenged before the Supreme Court.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement that the Supreme Court's written decisions are a better source of information for navigating questions about affirmative action policies.

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The Obama-era guidance had argued that while race should not be the primary factor in an admission decision, colleges could lawfully consider it in the interests of improving diversity.

Eight states already prohibit the use of race in public college admissions: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington. In the ruling, recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy joined three-other liberal justices in favor of a University of Texas program created to boost the enrollment of minority students. His departure means that we don't know how this court is going to rule on these kinds of issues.

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, which represents college and university presidents, said he doubted schools would change admission policies based exclusively on Tuesday's announcement.

Rachel Kleinman, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said withdrawing the guidance could deter districts from implementing policies to increase diversity. Those districts will no longer be able to rely on the Education Department, she said, to help them craft a policy that complies with the Supreme Court's decision.

Kleinman said she feared the action "might chill school districts from doing anything at all".

"In the Trump administration, we are restoring the rule of law", Sessions said in a statement.

"The President", Richmond said, "is sending a message to his future nominee and to his base that he and his administration don't care about diversity and will actively work to turn back the clock".

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