EDUCATION

Should race be a factor in college admissions?

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BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Fifteen years ago, California voters were asked: Should colleges consider a student's race when they decide who gets in and who doesn't?

With an emphatic "no," they made California the first state to ban the use of race and ethnicity in public university admissions, as well as hiring and contracting.

Since then, California's most selective public colleges and graduate schools have struggled to assemble student bodies that reflect the state's demographic mix.

Universities around the country could soon face the same challenge.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to revisit the thorny issue of affirmative action less than a decade after it endorsed the use of race as a factor in college admissions.

The high court agreed in February to take up the case of a white woman who claims she was rejected by the University of Texas because of its race-conscious admissions policy.

The justices are expected to hear arguments this fall. College officials are worried today's more conservative court could limit or even ban the consideration of race in admissions decisions.

A broad ruling could affect both public and private universities that practice affirmative action, a powerful tool for increasing campus diversity.

"If the decision is very broad and very hostile to affirmative action, the future of the rest of country may look very similar to California," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. "It would be very disruptive at many institutions."

The effects of California's ban, known as Proposition 209, are particularly evident at the world-renowned University of California, Berkeley campus, where the student body is highly diverse but hardly resembles the ethnic and racial fabric of the state.

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