A case that could decide what role a student's race may play in the college admissions process went before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday.
Although Fisher v. Texas is one of the most highly anticipated and controversial cases to go before the court this session, it's expected to have minimal impact at Oklahoma's public colleges and universities, where a student's race isn't a factor in admissions.
A decision in the case is expected by July. That decision could determine what role, if any, race may play in the admissions process at publicly funded colleges and universities.
The suit was brought by a Texas woman who claimed she was denied admission into the University of Texas because she is white.
Andrea Noel Fisher, a white graduate of Steven F. Foster High School in Sugar Land, Texas, challenged the state university's admissions policy after she was rejected by the school in 2008. UT guarantees admission to students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, but Fisher's 3.59 GPA was not enough.
The university also admits a certain number of other students, for whom race, leadership experience, socioeconomic status and other factors can provide an admissions advantage.
Fisher, who had a combined SAT score of 1180 out of 1600, was rejected. Fisher, now 22, subsequently enrolled at Louisiana State University and graduated in May.
In its 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, the court ruled that universities may consider race among other admissions factors when the universities had a compelling interest in promoting diversity.
Unlike UT, Oklahoma's public colleges and universities don't use race as a factor during the admissions process. Officials say that practice prevents difficult questions and criticism regarding the way universities pick their incoming freshman classes.
No matter how the court decides, University of Oklahoma officials don't expect the decision to have any impact on the university, said OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop.
OU recently adopted a holistic admissions policy that allows the university to admit students who might have been rejected under the university's automatic admissions requirements. That new policy includes a range of admissions considerations that weren't included in the old system, but the applicant's race isn't among them.
The new system is designed to take into account a student's work ethic and academic potential as well as high school grades and scores on college entrance exams.
Likewise, Oklahoma State University officials don't look at applicants' race when deciding whom to admit. OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said the university doesn't expect any impact from the decision.
“While we work hard to diversify our student body, we do not take race into account for admissions,” he said. “It is not a criteria.”