In a setback for college affirmative action, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling that bars the University of Maryland from restricting some of its scholarships to black students only.
The outcome in this closely watched case threatens the “race-targeted scholarships” that are found at twothirds of the nation’s colleges and universities.
While most scholarships are based on merit and need only, about 5 percent of undergraduate aid and 10 percent in professional schools are limited to certain students based on their race or ethnic heritage, according to a General Accounting Office survey.
The University of Maryland said its Banneker program, which offered all-expenses scholarships to 30 to 40 black freshmen, symbolized its commitment to overcoming its past history of excluding blacks. In 1930, Baltimore-native Thurgood Marshall, who went on to become a Supreme Court justice, was barred from applying to Maryland law school because of his race.
But last year, in the first decision on the issue, a federal appeals court ruled that a scholarship program limited to blacks denies white students the equal protection of the laws.
“Racial classifications cannot be rationalized by the casual invocation of benign remedial aims,” wrote a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling dealt only with racial issues, not with scholarships based on gender or other criteria.
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