Jeff Sessions revokes Obama-era guidance to promote diversity at colleges

Trump administration to rollback Obama-era college admission guidelines on race

Trump administration to rollback Obama-era college admission guidelines on race

Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, had issued two sets of admissions to colleges as well as elementary and secondary schools "on the voluntary use of race to achieve diversity", saying educational institutions had a "compelling interest" in doing so.

The withdrawal of the Obama-era guidance constitutes a return to the George W. Bush-era policy discouraging affirmative action programs and instead encouraging the use of race-neutral alternatives, like percentage plans and economic diversity programs.

While the Supreme Court has affirmed the practice of affirmative action a couple of times, the issue could be revisited if Trump's Supreme Court nominee views the practice differently than his predecessor, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

But conservatives argue that these rulings could unfairly harm white and Asian college applicants.

The guidelines, implemented under Obama between 2010 and 2016, put forth legal recommendations that officials in the Trump White House say "mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than the law allows", according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The 2011 guidance sought to help school districts thread the needle when using race or other factors in enrollment policies.

The rules under Obama, a Democrat, were issued by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.

MJ: What does the administration's decision mean for colleges and universities following the Obama-era guidance?

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 their admission policies based exclusively on the announcement.

More recently, in November, the Department of Justice threw its weight behind a group called Students for Fair Admissions suing Harvard on the grounds that its affirmative action policies allegedly discriminated against Asian-American applicants. With Trump expected to announce his nominee next week, the issue should be a central part of any confirmation process, said Howard University School of Law Dean Danielle Holley-Walker.

On Tuesday, Harvard and other universities were defiant in defending their admissions policies as legal.

Retracting the memos sends a signal about the Trump administration's priorities.

The Supreme Court has limited how colleges and universities can factor race into their admissions processes.

Still, the rescinding of the Obama guidelines could have a chilling effect on some universities as they consider the makeup of incoming freshman classes, advocates of affirmative action said.

Harvard says its admissions policies comply with United States laws and that it has worked to boost financial aid to ensure economic, as well as racial, diversity in its classes.

The case is likely to go to trial this fall and may ultimately be decided years from now by the US Supreme Court.

'This guidance restated the law and our national commitment to diversity. The guidelines were among 24 policy documents revoked yesterday by the Justice Department for being "unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper".

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