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SFFA’s True Agenda: Deny Opportunity to Qualified Students

  • SFFA’s lawsuit against Carolina is part of a national legal strategy to overturn the narrowly tailored approach of using race in admissions that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed, most recently in 2016.
  • SFFA brought similar lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of Texas at Austin.
  • SFFA alleged “race is a dominant factor” “to the detriment of white and Asian American applicants” at Carolina but at trial the evidence overwhelmingly showed the admissions office uses race in a limited, permissible fashion and that race is not the dominant factor in admissions decisions. The trial court agreed in its 2021 decision.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill strives to educate a diverse community of outstanding students from varied backgrounds and different perspectives who collectively will help our entire community realize the profound educational benefits of diversity.

Race: One Factor Among Many

  • Contrary to SFFA’s allegations, the University does not use quotas or formulas, and we do not discriminate against any applicant or group. The evidence at trial showed Carolina does not use race as a dominant or defining feature in admissions.
  • Our applicants are never required to disclose their race or ethnicity. We recognize differences among individual applicants as part of a holistic process and that is the basis for making decisions using our academic judgment about a highly competitive pool of applicants in the first-year class. Under a 1986 UNC System policy, 82 percent of those first-year students must be North Carolina residents.
  • Every student earns their place at Carolina. We are grateful they choose to attend UNC-Chapel Hill and look forward to all they will accomplish in the future.

Our Holistic Approach Follows the Law

  • Our holistic approach to admissions complies with the spirit and letter of the law. We evaluate each student individually based on multiple factors, including academic performance, class rank, essays, experiences, and potential to contribute to the educational environment.
  • We only consider race or ethnicity as one of these many factors if a student chooses to share that information. Even then, we consider race or ethnicity flexibly, as one factor among many in assessing everything we know about an applicant.

We Assess Possible Alternatives

  • UNC-Chapel Hill has complied with the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandates to seriously consider potential race-neutral alternatives. Carolina goes to extraordinary lengths to create a campus community where students from all backgrounds can excel and thrive.
  • We continually evaluate our admissions process and assess the viability of other options.
  • Examples of UNC-Chapel Hill’s race-neutral approaches include admission fee waivers as well as nationally recognized initiatives to foster diversity such as the:
    • Carolina Covenant, a ground-breaking program for academically qualified low-income students that offers a debt-free path to graduation through a combination of grants, scholarships and work-study jobs;
    • Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP), which partners with 14 community colleges in North Carolina – most in rural counties – to ensure the University meets the needs of talented transfer students before they arrive in Chapel Hill; and the
    • Carolina College Advising Corps, which places recent graduates as admissions and financial aid advisors in underserved high schools across North Carolina to reinforce the importance of a college education and guide prospective students through the admissions process.
  • The trial court agreed the evidence shows that replacing our holistic process with race-neutral alternatives – including those examined by Carolina for two decades and others suggested by SFFA – would not allow us to achieve the educational benefits of diversity about as well as the current holistic process  without sacrificing academic quality standards.

Our Commitment to Educating a Diverse Community is Strong

  • The University has a strong interest in providing the well-established educational benefits associated with diversity, including improved learning outcomes, promoting the robust exchange of ideas, fostering innovation and preparing effective leaders.
  • Our trial court record includes over 55 declarations of support from administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. They provided the court with eloquent statements about the importance of a diverse learning environment. These statements cite the benefits of diversity in the classroom, as members of the campus community, and well after graduation amid successful careers.
  • SFFA produced no convincing evidence at trial to challenge these findings or our expert’s conclusion that Carolina’s commitment to achieving the educational benefits of diversity was both strong and genuine.

NC Business Leaders Say Racial and Ethnic Diversity Is Vital in Global Marketplaces

  • Nearly 30 prominent companies that do business in North Carolina and hire hundreds of UNC-Chapel Hill graduates annually joined to file an amici curiae brief with the trial court supporting our position.
  • They are ArcelorMittal USA, Ariel Investments, Capital Broadcasting Co., Cisco Systems, Cummins Inc., Duke University Health System, eBay Inc., Eli Lilly and Co., Entergy Corp., Ernst & Young, General Motors Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Hershey Co.; HP Inc., IBM Corp., IKEA, KPMG LLP, Microsoft Corp., NASCAR, PayPal Inc., PepsiCo, Red Hat Inc., The Redwoods Group, Replacements Ltd., Research Triangle Institute, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., United Airlines, and Yum! Brands Inc.
  • Businesses operating in global marketplaces successfully must hire people who can lead and collaborate with others from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, the brief says. UNC-Chapel Hill and other leading universities need the “flexibility to enroll a diverse body of students and to enable those students to acquire the skills needed to succeed in today’s global, multicultural marketplace.”
  • Racial and ethnic diversity at universities like Carolina is important today to counteract the “substantial underrepresentation of minorities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields,” the brief says. Advanced scientific research today is international and collaborative in nature. Having employees who can operate in diverse environments is “vitally important.” The businesses signing the brief depend on top universities to educate and train those employees and future leaders.
  • The amicus brief says diminished racial and ethnic diversity at UNC-Chapel Hill “would have grave long-term consequences for businesses in North Carolina and beyond. The consequences will be especially significant for businesses in the STEM field.”

Pioneering Initiatives Promote Socioeconomic Diversity

  • SFFA’s claims at trial ignored Carolina’s many highly successful initiatives to foster diversity, including racial and socioeconomic diversity, among the student body. We devote significant resources to recruit and encourage talented and diverse students to apply for admission.
  • We actively recruit students from different backgrounds, including underrepresented minorities, first-generation college and those from geographically diverse areas in local communities that cover all 100 North Carolina counties.
  • Carolina’s pioneering and nationally recognized efforts to foster diversity in the student body include the:
    • Carolina Covenant, a ground-breaking program for academically qualified low-income students that offers a debt-free path to graduation through a combination of grants, scholarships and work-study jobs. commitment to debt-free financial aid for our students who qualify for admission;
    • Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP), which partners with 14 community colleges in North Carolina – most in rural counties – to ensure the University meets the needs of talented transfer students before they arrive in Chapel Hill; and the
    • Carolina College Advising Corps, which places recent graduates as admissions and financial aid advisors in underserved high schools across North Carolina to reinforce the importance of a college education and guide prospective students through the admissions process.

Our Financial Aid Programs Are Among the Nation’s Most Generous

  • SFFA’s expert witness at trial contended that the University should increase financial aid as one means of increasing diversity among the student body.
  • Carolina already has one of the nation’s most generous financial aid programs. As a proudly public major research institution, the University admits students regardless of their ability to pay in a need-blind process.
  • The University awards 93 percent of all available scholarship and grant funds based on financial need. Carolina long has been one of the nation’s only two public universities to fully fund 100 percent of demonstrated need among eligible students.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill consistently ranks among the top values in American public higher education, according to media sources including Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, U.S. News & World Report, and The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education.

Out-of-State Children of Alumni Receive Narrow Legacy Consideration

  • SFFA’s expert mischaracterized how the University considers children of alumni for admission. The University’s admissions policy provides no legacy preference for North Carolina applicants, who under a 1986 UNC System policy must make up 82 percent of the incoming class.
  • Out-of-state applicants whose parents are alumni must still compete for admission in the highly competitive non-residence pool, and that legacy status may be one factor among many the admissions office considers.
  • In 2021, out-of-state children of alumni accounted for approximately 4.7 percent of the 4,688-member incoming class. These 219 out-of-state students were well credentialed academically, earning almost all A’s in an average level 8 college-level courses in high school. Of those who chose to report a test score, they averaged 1460 on the SAT or an equivalent score on the ACT. These students earned their places at Carolina, just as all our students earned their place.