Supreme Court Prohibits Use of Affirmative Action in Higher Education Admissions

In decisions released on June 29, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of race-based affirmative action in higher education admissions in the cases of Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admission v. University of North Carolina. The decisions, which overturn over 45 years of precedent pertaining to the consideration of race in admissions, signal a significant paradigm shift in higher education and in efforts to promote a diverse health workforce.

In the decisions, the Supreme Court ruled on constitutional grounds that race-conscious admissions policies violate the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment, stating, “Because Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points, those admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause.”

In July 2022, PAEA joined with 45 other national health professions and education organizations to submit an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief on the adverse implications of restricting race-conscious admissions, commonly referred to as  “affirmative action,” for the health workforce. In the brief, the organizations argued, “There is no way to know how non-diverse the healthcare community would become in future years and decades if holistic review were forbidden in medical education, but it is clear that the lives and health of the American public would be gravely diminished. Accordingly, (we) urge this Court to take no action that would disrupt the admissions processes the Nation’s health-professional schools have carefully crafted in reliance on this Court’s longstanding precedents.”

To assist members in adapting to the new landscape created by the Supreme Court’s decisions, which are anticipated to have an extended implementation timeline, PAEA has developed a resource page with comprehensive background information, action plans, and case studies of institutional adaptation strategies.

“Over the coming weeks, PAEA is committed to publishing additional educational resources for members including frequently asked questions, guidance on adaptations to admissions processes, and articles on strategies to continue promoting our core values of equity, diversity, and inclusion in PA education,” said PAEA CEO Sara Fletcher.

Members with questions on the Supreme Court’s decisions are invited to contact Tyler Smith at