Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, the first case the Court has taken up in a decade on the use of race in higher education admissions. The case has generated ninety-two amicus briefs, one of the highest totals for any Supreme Court case in history. The Court is expected to issue a ruling in the high-stakes case that restricts racial preferences more sharply than its 2003 rulings in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger. As opposed to 2003, many of the arguments in the current affirmative action debate focus not on the competition between races for spots at an elite school, but on whether racial preferences actually benefit their recipients.
On September 21, the Governance Studies program at Brookings hosted a half-day conference examining new research on the actual effects of racial preferences upon students. Do racial preferences help more blacks and Hispanics become scientists and engineers, or do they push students away from STEM majors? Do they tend to increase or decrease minority graduation rates? How do they affect student learning? Did California’s ban on racial preferences in the 1990s change enrollments by black and Hispanic students or affect their grades and graduation rates?
After each panel, participants took audience questions.