"Once again, the Trump administration works to create confusion where none exists, needlessly muddying civil rights practices in schools", Catherine Lhamon, assistant education secretary for civil rights under Obama, said in an email. "The law on this hasn't changed, and the Supreme Court has twice ruled reaffirming the importance of diversity", she told the Wall Street Journal. "That is the message of our new study, and it is past time that schools quit the morally dubious means of using race or ethnicity as "a factor" in selecting their student bodies".
When an institution is taking an individual student's race into account in an admissions or selection process, it should conduct an individualized, holistic review of all applicants.
Democrats pounced, noting that the rescissions come roughly a week before Trump is expected to announce his pick to succeed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is slated to step down on July 31.
But Barack Obama's administration, in 2011 and 2016, issued recommendations that encouraged schools to think of diversity as a compelling state interest and to embrace race-based admissions as a tool to achieve it.
The court's most recent significant ruling on the subject bolstered colleges' use of race among many factors in the admission process. "We still have all of the Supreme Court rulings that would influence how we handle this". The new pronouncement does not have the force of law, and schools committed to the practice can continue to use it.
A lawsuit brought against the Ivy League school in 2014 alleges Harvard discriminates against Asian-American students by limiting the number of Asian students admitted and holding them to higher academic standards.
Blum said Tuesday the organization "welcomes any governmental actions that will eliminate racial classifications and preferences in college admissions".
In June, a special report by ProPublica found that Trump's Department of Education had dropped more than 1,200 civil rights investigations opened under the Obama administration.
Last year, the White House directed the Justice Department to explore whether it can sue institutions of higher education over affirmative action policies that the White House deems discriminatory against white applicants, The New York Times reported.
"Educators know that all students, and not just our students of color, benefit from diverse and inclusive classrooms", Lily Eskelsen García, the National Education Association president, said in a statement. She said the announcement underscored the stakes surrounding the upcoming Supreme Court appointment.
The Supreme Court has been generally accepting of considering race in admissions decisions to achieve diversity.
The Trump administration, which has long signaled its dissatisfaction with affirmative action, argued that these policies went beyond the Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action, and misled schools into exceeding the legal precedent. Justice Antonin Scalia died after the court heard arguments in the case but before the decision was handed down. In a statement, the school called the lawsuit an attack on its ability to consider race in admissions, which it says is necessary to assemble a diverse mix of students.