ACT Perspective on Fisher Decision

As is clear to most observers, not every student enjoys the same advantages as they advance through the K-12 educational system. Too often those disparate experiences not only impair their personal academic outcomes, they also limit the opportunities those students might have had to contribute their distinct perspectives to the colleges they might have attended—and, in the longer run, to contribute to the vitality of the communities they represent and to the prosperity and well-being of our country as a whole.

For generations, ACT has advocated that colleges and universities must use admissions criteria that are valid, reliable, holistic, and effective—and embrace the full range of students who could benefit from higher education. We believe the U.S. Supreme Court Fisher decision, to uphold the University of Texas’ efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, is consistent with that holistic perspective.

“A university is in large part defined by those intangible qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, adding “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.”

On June 22, just one day before the Fisher decision was announced, we launched the ACT Center for Equity in Learning, which will advocate for underserved students and young working learners.

In some ways, our timing could not have been more fortuitous.

Building on ACT’s core strengths in the high school to postsecondary years, the Center’s initiatives will reflect ACT’s interests in both college and career readiness and highlight the use of data, evidence, and thought leadership to close gaps in equity and achievement.

Until the quality of education is uniformly high for every student, the Center—and all of our society—still has work to do. As we strive to reach that ambitious standard of equality of opportunity for every young person, we appreciate and applaud the court’s counsel to use “valuable data about…different approaches to admissions” to “foster diversity” rather than “dilute it.”