(CN) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to decide whether race consideration should play a role in undergraduate admissions at the University of Texas.
Under the Top 10 Percent Law, which Texas enacted in 1997 to boost minority enrollment, local high school students in the top 10 percent of their senior class received automatic admission to state universities. After assessing its minority representation in 2004, however, University of Texas schools began including race as a factor when considering applications of in-state students who would not be eligible for admission under the Top 10 Percent Law.
If a student is ineligible to a Texas state school under the Top 10 Percent Law and does not qualify by academic variables alone, schools can consider the submitted essays and a personal achievement score based on seven "special circumstances," including race and socioeconomic status.
The University of Texas adopted the race-conscious undergraduate admissions program with attention to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling Grutter v. Bollinger, regarding the admissions process at the University of Michigan Law School.
Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz, who were denied admission to the University of Texas in fall 2008, challenged the constitutionality of the admissions process. They claimed the race-conscious program was discriminatory and violated the 14th Amendment, but they did not challenge the Top 10 Percent Law.
A federal judge in Texas had dismissed the lawsuit, and the New Orleans-based federal appeals panel affirmed in January.
Six months later, the full court voted 9-7 against rehearing the case.
Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are expected to occur in October as the justices have already filled their calendar through the spring.
Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the court's consideration of the petition.
Michalewicz is not participating in the appeal, meaning that Fisher's case alone must carry the day. Reportedly on track to graduate from Louisiana State University, some experts have cautioned that Fisher's case may soon be moot.
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