(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether colleges can continue to consider race as part of their admissions decisions, a practice commonly known as affirmative action.
Here is what to know about the policy, its history and the possible consequences of the court's decision.
WHAT IS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION?
In the context of higher education, affirmative action typically refers to admissions policies.
Colleges that take race into consideration say they do so as part of a holistic approach that reviews every aspect of an application, including grades, test scores and extracurricular activities.
The goal of race-conscious admissions policies is to increase student diversity. Schools also employ recruitment programs and scholarship opportunities intended to boost diversity, but the Supreme Court litigation is focused on admissions.
WHICH SCHOOLS CONSIDER RACE?
While many schools do not disclose details about their admissions processes, taking race into account is more common among selective schools that turn down most of their applicants.
In a 2019 survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 24.6% of schools said race had a "considerable" or "moderate" influence on admissions, while more than half reported that race played no role whatsoever.
Nine states have banned the use of race in admissions policies: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES?
The court could choose to maintain the current system, eliminate race-conscious admissions altogether or settle on something in between, such as more stringent limits on the practice.
A decision banning affirmative action would force elite colleges to revamp their policies and search for new ways to ensure diversity. Many schools say other measures will not be as effective, resulting in fewer minority students.
In briefs filed with the court, the University of California and the University of Michigan - top public school systems from states that have outlawed race-conscious admissions - said they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on alternative programs intended to improve diversity, but that those efforts have fallen far short of their goals.https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/explainer-what-happens-if-the-us-supreme-court-bans-affirmative-action/ar-AA197CkJ?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=815d5b8f07cb4195a108054e26628fc3&ei=19