▶ Watch Video: Supreme Court strikes down use of affirmative action in college admissions

Washington — President Biden on Thursday expressed his disappointment with the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action in college admissions, insisting the country “cannot let this decision be the last word.”

“While the court can render a decision, it cannot change what America stands for,” he said from the White House.

The court’s ruling in a pair of cases involving the admissions practices of Harvard College and the University of North Carolina fell along ideological lines, with the conservative majority finding that the use of race as a factor in accepting students violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Mr. Biden said he “strongly, strongly” disagrees with the court’s decision.

“For 45 years, the United States Supreme Court has recognized colleges’ freedom to decide how to build diverse student bodies and to meet their responsibility of opening doors of opportunity for every single American,” the president said. “In case after case … the court has affirmed and reaffirmed this view — that colleges could use race, not as a determining factor for admission, but as one of the factors among many in deciding who to admit from an already qualified pool of applicants. Today, the court once again walked away from decades of precedent, as the dissent has made clear.”

Mr. Biden has long expressed support for affirmative action, and his administration urged the Supreme Court to decline to hear Harvard’s case. He urged schools to continue prioritizing diversity, and laid out “guidance” for how the nation’s colleges and universities should navigate the new legal landscape.

“They should not abandon their commitment to ensure student bodies of diverse backgrounds and experience that reflect all of America,” Mr. Biden said. “What I propose for consideration is a new standard, where colleges take into account the adversity a student has overcome when selecting among qualified applicants. Let’s be clear, under this new standard, just as was true under the earlier standard, students first have to be qualified applicants.”

This new “adversity” standard, Mr. Biden noted, would comply with Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion.

“[The students] need the GPA and test scores to meet the school’s standards,” the president said. “Once that test is met, then adversity should be considered, including students’ lack of financial means, because we know too few students of low-income families, whether in big cities or rural communities, are getting an opportunity to go to college.”

Mr. Biden said he’s also directing the Department of Education to review what practices help build more inclusive student bodies, and which practices work against that goal.

“Practices like legacy admissions and other systems expand privilege instead of opportunity,” he said.

Mr. Biden said he knows Thursday’s court decision “is a severe disappointment to so many people, including me.”

“But we cannot let the decision be a permanent setback for the country,” he concluded.

As he was leaving, a reporter asked the president whether he thinks the court is a “rogue court.”

“This is not a normal court,” he replied.

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