The college admissions process looks unfair to many who try to navigate it.

For every accepted student, selective colleges can turn down an equally qualified applicant. Or two. Or 10. In the end, decisions are made on a wide variety of factors beyond SAT scores and grade-point average. One of them is race.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 upheld a limited application of affirmative action, which has been used to increase the numbers of minorities and women in educational and business opportunities where they historically have been denied.

Controversy can arise, however, if race or gender results in preferential treatment for an applicant, as has been charged in this case.

So, once again, the Court is being asked to throw out the whole ball of wax that is affirmative action.

In Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas, the Texas high school graduate claims she was denied admission to her state’s flagship university because she is white, since others who were accepted, including some minorities, had lower grades and scores.

Advocates for Fisher say college admissions should be a search for the best and the brightest, and all decisions should be made on objective criteria.

It’s not that simple, though.

The criteria are less objective than they would appear. Students come from different schools where there are different standards, quality of teachers and community expectations that could affect high school grade and test scores. Few “objective” measures don’t correlate in some way to family income and education.

Why should this matter? Because the state should aim to spread opportunity, not limit it. It’s not in anyone’s interest for the public education system to be used to perpetuate inequality and discrimination that is already baked into the system.

Race should not be the only determining factor in who gets into a particular college, but promoting equal opportunity is more valuable to the whole community than making sure that every member of the freshman class had a high score on the SAT.

Fisher’s is a strange test case for the law, even though she was personally disappointed to not be accepted to the University of Texas. Current UT practice reserves a number of places for high school students who meet certain standards for academic achievement. She did not qualify.

That did not mean, however, that Fisher was denied a college education. Instead, she went to Louisiana State University, and has since graduated. It is hard to see how she was harmed, or how denying someone else an opportunity would be in anyone’s best interest.

As long as schools such as Texas use race as just one factor among many in their admissions process, the Supreme Court should allow the practice to continue.

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