Skip to main content

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.
  • Contrary to SFFA’s allegation that “race is a dominant factor” in Carolina’s admissions decisions “to the detriment of white and Asian American applicants,” our evidence in this case shows the admissions office uses race in a limited, permissible fashion.
  • 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 shows 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 nearly 55,000 applicants vying for about 4,500 seats 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 fairly 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 and comprehensive approach to admissions complies with the spirit and letter of the law. We evaluate each student individually based on a multitude of factors, including but not limited to, academic performance, test scores, class rank, essays, experiences, circumstances, 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 in a limited way, 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 regularly examine our current lawful approach to admissions and assess our progress toward achieving the educational benefits of diversity. Those evaluations are ongoing, and we continue to explore 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, which partners with 14 community colleges in North Carolina 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.
  • To date, the evidence in our case shows that additional race-neutral alternatives – including those examined by Carolina across two decades and others suggested by SFFA – would not meet our diversity objectives about as well as the current admissions approach without sacrificing academic excellence 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, enhanced leadership skills and cultivating understanding across people of all backgrounds.
  • Our case 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 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 have joined to file an amici curiae brief 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 allegations ignore 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 through college fairs, high school visits and events 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, which partners with 14 community colleges in North Carolina 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 contends 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 mischaracterizes 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.