Bill Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin, speaking to the media after attending arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 10, 2012, in Washington, D.C. 
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A three-judge federal appeals court decided Tuesday that The University of Texas at Austin can use affirmative action when considering whether college applicants gain admission, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The 2-1 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit comes as a win for proponents of affirmative action and a blow to Abigail Fisher, the white student who filed suit against the University of Texas at Austin in 2008, alleging that the use of affirmative action in deciding college admission created an unfair disadvantage. Fisher filed the lawsuit after she was denied admission into the school.

"Universities are incubators for America's future leadership and for civic engagement," Sherrilyn A. Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. "This decision should stand as a declaration of the ongoing importance and legality of affirmative action efforts that holistically evaluate applicants for admission in higher education."

According to U.S. News, "the University of Texas at Austin uses a 10 percent admissions system," meaning that those who graduate high school in the top 10 percent of their class gain admission. Those who graduate among the other 90 percent are decided by a "holistic" application evaluation, which includes race.

Fisher argued that the current policy didn't allow for students who graduated from superior high schools but may not have been in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes. She also challenged the university's "holistic" selection process by asking that it consider a "race-blind" screening process, U.S. News notes.


"It is settled that instruments of state may pursue facially neutral policies calculated to promote equality of opportunity among students to whom the public schools of Texas assign quite different starting places in the annual race for seats in its flagship university," Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote for the majority. "It is equally settled that universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity."

In April the Supreme Court ruled that those states that ban affirmative action in the college admissions process do not violate the Constitution. The April ruling didn't ban affirmative action outright but allowed the eight states that did so to continue, according to U.S. News. 

"My classmates and I have seen firsthand how important a diverse campus is to fostering a meaningful living and learning experience," David McDonald, president of the Black Student Alliance at UT Austin, said in a statement. "I am thrilled that the 5th Circuit has upheld the principles of diversity in higher education."


Read more at U.S. News & World Report.