By David G. Savage
June 24, 2013, 2:59 p.m.

WASHINGTON – Defying widespread expectations that they were on the brink of doing away with affirmative action in higher education, the Supreme Court justices Monday upheld using race as a factor in admissions decisions but said colleges and universities must prove that race-based policies are truly necessary to achieve diversity.

The ruling, after eight months of internal debate, brought conservative and liberal justices together on a middle-ground approach that reaffirms the importance of diversity on campus but nudges college officials to try “race-neutral” policies for enrolling more minority students.

Colleges and universities may consider a student’s race in their admissions policies, the high court held in a 7-1 decision covering the University of Texas, but only if doing so is necessary to achieve racial and ethnic diversity on campus.

The decision by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy opened new routes by which affirmative action plans can be challenged. But it also marked the first time that he and two other conservative members of the court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., had endorsed the use of race as one factor in college admission decisions.

DOCUMENT: The affirmative action ruling

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