Common App will be able to hide applicants’ basic race information

Each year, more than a million students use the Common App platform to apply to college and are given the option to check a box on their application that discloses their ethnic or racial identity. Beginning Aug. 1, colleges can request that the Common App conceal students’ racial information from their admissions team, The New York Times reports. Over 1,000 colleges and universities use the Common App’s universal application. The new option to mask that information is a preemptive move that might help higher institutions “with whatever legal standard the Supreme Court will set in regards to race in admissions,” Common App said in a statement, according to the Times.  

Related: Georgetown University leads over 50 Catholic colleges in filing Supreme Court brief supporting affirmative action >

The Common App already allows colleges to conceal student test scores if the institutions do not wish to consider that information when making admissions decisions. Schools also can hide students’ Social Security numbers, birth dates, gender, and criminal history, according to the Times. Common App still will collect applicants’ racial information for its own research purposes, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, as Common App does not make admissions decisions.

Looking ahead

The option to conceal race is one of the first steps to prepare college admissions for the possibility of a Supreme Court ruling banning or restricting race-conscious admissions and may provide higher education institutions a measure of plausible deniability that protects them from future lawsuits, legal experts tell the Times. Although applicants may still indicate their racial and ethnic background in other application materials, including essays or teacher recommendations, those are less likely to be targeted for lawsuits. 

Related: Common App updates language on gender questions, fee waiver eligibility >

The Supreme Court previously upheld the legality of race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions in 2003 and 2016. However, some legal analysts expect that, with a right-wing majority, the Court may end the 40-year legal precedent when it announces its ruling expected in late June. The scope of the upcoming decision is unknown, but the justices were focused on the implications of students “checking the box,” a phrase used more than 30 times during oral arguments before the justices last October.

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