California affirmative action plan could serve as model

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PALM DESERT, Calif. - The Supreme Court handed down a mixed ruling a major affirmative action case.  Justices are sending Abigail Fisher's case back to a Federal Appeals Court, ordering the court to take another look. She claimed her race prevented her from getting admitted to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008.  The justices did rule that courts may approve affirmative action, only after schools try other workable "race-neutral" solutions that benefit diversity. "The court is also sending the message that aside from race, and while it is an important criteria, it's not the sole criteria," said Rob Gilliland, an attorney.

California voters banned affirmative action back in 1996 and since then, universities have found other ways to promote diversity.  Colleges around the country could now be looking at policies set in place at California universities.  Places like Cal State San Bernardino, the nation's largest and most diverse system of senior higher education.    Avisinia Rodriguez is an admissions counselor at the Palm Desert campus.  "We want to give access to the kids that are not going to be going to a four year or private school," said Rodriguez.  "We want to give them the ability to get a four year degree, without going far away or paying too much tuition."

Of CSU's 23 campuses and nearly 437,000 students, more than 56% are minorities.  The system could serve as a model for universities that use affirmative action to create diversity, especially now under the watchful eye of the court.  "They're going to be reviewing to make sure those policies regarding admissions to colleges, are evenly and fairly applied," said Gilliland. 

While affirmative action makes its way back to the appellate court, Rodriguez puts her admission criteria simply, "Give me what you have, if you're a great kid we can get you admitted."

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