Resources on Supreme Court Decisions Regarding Race-based Admissions and Student Loan Forgiveness

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) would like to bring to your attention additional information and resources regarding recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court that will impact institutions of higher education.

Race-Based Admissions

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina that the admissions programs at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina are unlawful under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment in their respective uses of race in the admissions process. The majority decision noted that a student “must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual — not on the basis of race.”

The Commission remains dedicated to honest institutional self-reflection that creates meaningful change and encourages impactful practices that make a difference in the lives of our diverse student body and the communities our institutions serve. We continue to support and celebrate efforts to expand access to higher education and educational success for all student populations. The Standards for Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation (Fourteenth Edition) account for a foundational principle that “institutions should reflect deeply and share results on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the context of their mission.”

Impact on DEI and Standards for Accreditation

The Supreme Court’s decision does not impact institutions’ autonomy to establish institutional mission, nor does it prevent institutions from considering race in the context of students’ experiences with regard to admission. Though institutions will need to reevaluate admissions practices to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision, the decision does not prevent institutions from advancing goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion or from complying with MSCHE standards. It is anticipated that the United States Department of Education will issue guidance for institutions regarding the Supreme Court decision in late summer or early fall 2023, and MSCHE will share additional information at that time.

It is also important to note the Supreme Court’s decision addressed practices related to admissions but did not specifically address the consideration of race in other areas including scholarships, financial aid, student success initiatives, employment practices, data collection and analysis, or recruitment of student-athletes. The Commission continues to encourage institutions to establish and promote a holistic approach to DEI across their campuses while ensuring compliance through legally sound admissions practices.

Amicus Brief Sign On

On August 2, 2022, MSCHE joined 40 higher education organizations in signing an amicus brief in the matter of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, Univ. No. Carolina, Students for Fair Admissions’ (SFFA’s) submitted on August 1, 2022, by the American Council on Education (ACE). The amicus brief asserted that institutions need to be able to holistically review and admit students whose credentials, qualities, and life experience correspond with and further the institution’s own mission and goals and that institutions cannot admit applicants based only upon purportedly “objective” criteria like test scores and grade point averages and must have the academic freedom to utilize other factors as part of a holistic admissions review. In addition, MSCHE had signed an amicus brief in support of Harvard’s admissions lawsuit in 2018.

MSCHE Signs Diversity in Admissions Amicus Brief

MSCHE Signs Amicus Brief in Support of Harvard Admissions Lawsuit

Student Loan Forgiveness

On June 30, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled in Biden v. Nebraska that the Secretary of Education did not have the power to waive student loans under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 (HEROES Act). The plan would have forgiven up to $10,000 (or $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients) for individuals earning less than $125,000 annually.

The decision does not impact Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), and institutions are encouraged to share information about PSLF with students and employees. The Department of Education has also developed a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document for borrowers whose payments will resume in fall 2023, and institutions are encouraged to share this resource with borrowers.

Additional Resources

The Commission will continue to make resources available to institutional members as they become available. Institutional representatives should contact the Vice President Staff Liaisons assigned to their institution with specific questions.

Race-based Admissions

ACE Issue Brief Explores Implications of Supreme Court Race in Admissions Ruling
CollegeBoard U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Race in Admissions
Fact Sheet: President Biden Announces Actions to Promote Educational Opportunity and Diversity in Colleges and Universities
Remarks by President Biden on the Supreme Court’s Decision on Affirmative Action
Secretary Cardona Statement on Supreme Court Ruling on College Affirmative Action Programs
Statement by Vice President Harris on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina
Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. V. President and Fellows of Harvard College
The Supreme Court Speaks: Understanding the Implications of Race-Conscious Admission Decision
“What to Know About Race-Conscious Admissions”
“What the Supreme Court Rejection of Affirmative Action Means”

Student Loan Forgiveness

Biden’s Loan Forgiveness Program Fails Supreme Court Test. What Now?
Biden, President of The United States, Et Al. V. Nebraska Et Al.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Prepare for Student Loan Payments To Restart FAQ
Student Loan Repayment Toolkit