The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, one of the two colleges that was the subject of the Supreme Court cases, just announced that it would offer free tuition to in-state students whose families make less than $80,000 a year.
"Our University’s commitment to access and affordability and supporting a culture of belonging for everyone does not change with last week’s ruling," UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said. "We want to make sure students know financial constraints should not stand in the way of their dreams."
This announcement came after civil rights lawyers filed a complaint against Harvard, for favoring wealthy applicants in the admissions process.
Economic class has been cited as a long-overlooked factor that would ensure diversity where race-based admissions fall short. At 38 colleges, there were more students from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent, according to The New York Times.
College education is a vehicle of social mobility, which could narrow economic inequality the more low-income students are admitted. On average, students from low- and middle-income backgrounds earn almost as much as rich students do, according to The Times.
While increasing economic diversity would provide new opportunities to families with less resources, it would still influence racial diversity.
The Peter G. Peterson foundation observed 2021 Census Bureau data, finding significant racial disparities in the wealth of American families: In 2021, the median household income was above $70,000 per year, but Black families earned below $58,000 on average, and Hispanic families earned below $58,000.
"We will comply with the Court’s ruling that an applicant’s lived racial experience cannot be credited as 'race for race’s sake,'” but instead under some circumstances may illuminate an individual’s character and contributions," Chancellor Guskiewicz said. "Our responsibility to comply with the law does not mean we will abandon our fundamental values as a university."