University of Georgia students wait for buses at the Tate Student Center bus stop on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Court ruling changed Georgia’s approach to race-based college admissions

The Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday that it is abandoning an Obama administration policy that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses may have little impact on Georgia’s largest campuses, because of a nearly two-decades-old court ruling.

The University of Georgia (UGA), the state’s flagship university, had used race as an admissions criteria for 10 to 15 percent of its enrollment until 2000, when it lost a court ruling over its policy. Three white women denied admission sued the university, saying the policy was discriminatory. UGA initially planned to appeal, but announced in 2001 it would not fight the decision.

UGA, and other schools, such as Georgia Tech, now use strategies like guaranteeing admission to the top two graduates of every accredited Georgia high school to boost minority and rural student enrollment.

UGA’s non-white student enrollment has increased since 2001 from 12.4 percent to 32.5 percent last fall, according to state data. The University System of Georgia’s non-white enrollment has risen since 2001 from 32.4 percent to nearly 50 percent last fall. 

University System of Georgia officials stressed in a statement late Tuesday its colleges and universities do not consider race in its admissions process.

“At all 26 USG institutions, race or ethnicity is not a determining factor in admissions,” it said.

Emory University, the state’s largest private institution, said while it does not have an affirmative action policy, it is committed to diversity. Emory said the Trump administration’s decision will not have an impact on its admissions process. Forty-four percent of its undergraduate students are white, according to Emory’s website.

“The information we have seen would not lead to a change in Emory’s admission process, our national, and even worldwide, search for the most talented students, nor a change to our approach to selection, which assesses a broad range of student characteristics and takes a holistic approach to applications for admission,” the university said in a statement.

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