Law School Admissions


Alternative Paths to Diversity: Exploring and Implementing Effective College Admissions Policies

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date



diversity, admissions, affirmative action, socioeconomic status, race, percent plans


The Supreme Court has established the parameters within which universities can practice race-conscious affirmative action for college admissions in a series of decisions beginning in l978. The key issues concern the educational impact of campus diversity and whether or not it is necessary to give some consideration to students’ race into order to produce a diverse student body in highly selective colleges. The most recent decision, Fisher v. University of Texas II, taken in June 2016, raised the question of whether there was a viable nonracial alternative policy that would produce the level of diversity for universities to realize the benefits of diverse learning experiences that are a central goal of the great majority of selective colleges and universities. This report explores the issues before the court and the continuing responsibilities of universities under the decision and introduces a series of new studies, most commissioned by a collaboration between the Civil Rights Project and ETS—three of which are included in this volume. The study concludes that the best evidence from the most recent social science studies and research syntheses show that the major proposed alternative policies are far less successful than affirmative action and thus do not meet the Court’s definition of feasible alternatives. This conclusion led the Court to approve affirmative action.