Most Americans say the Supreme Court should not bar colleges and universities from considering applicants’ race in the admissions process, according to a new poll released just weeks before the high court appears poised to do just that. that.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June on explicitly considering race in college admissions, and the largely conservative caucus has indicated it is likely to rule against the practice. But in a May poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs ResearchAmericans seem to heavily favor affirmative action on college admissions.

Sixty-three percent of American adults surveyed, across racial and political lines, said the Supreme Court should not prevent colleges from taking applicants’ race and ethnicity into account during the admissions process. But many said race should play less of a role and that factors like high school grades and standardized test scores should weigh more.

“On one hand, of course, the Supreme Court must take this changing culture into account,” said Marie Bigham, founder and CEO of race-conscious admissions advocacy group Admissions Community Cultivating Equity & Peace Today. “On the other hand, I think of other cases that have come to court. We know what Brown would have decided against the Board of Education if public opinion mattered.»

Bigham added that public opinion rarely has a big impact on policy decisions.

In the May poll, Democrats, nonwhite adults, and those with a college degree were more likely than white adults, Republicans, and those without a college degree to say that race and ethnicity should be important. The survey results continue a nationwide shift over the last 10 years in favor of affirmative action. In 2013, just 45% of Americans polled were in favor of the practice, an all-time low in the debate, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Affirmative action has been a constant topic of debate as the Supreme Court has been weighing cases that challenge current policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. The group Students for Fair Admissions Inc., led by conservative activist Ed Blum, accuses universities of discriminating against Asian-Americans and favoring black and Latino students. However, some Asian Americans have criticized the claims, saying Blum is simply using them. in a thinly veiled attempt to turn affirmative action on its head and sow racial discord.

Since the University of Michigan and the University of California halted affirmative action on their admissions (in 2006 and 1996, respectively), admissions officials at both schools have said they have struggled to create racially diverse student bodies. according to The New York Times. Expensive outreach programs to enroll non-white students have fallen short, and the two schools admitted in a pair of amicus briefs to the Supreme Court that the practice of racially neutral admissions have failedcausing a drop in black student admissions.

“I think this will continue to happen,” Bigham said, noting that universities complied when forced to ban affirmative action, but still worked to build diverse campuses. “Are you happy with your results? No. Those universities still do not reflect their communities. But I applaud my colleagues at those institutions for trying to find other ways. I see those states as indicators and warnings, all at the same time.

Organizations and institutions across the country are working to determine their place in a post-affirmative action America. Leaders of historically black colleges and universities have said that banning racially conscious admissions would create «racially isolated» colleges and universities, making HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions the only institutions where black students and Latinos would feel supported and safe.

Students for Fair Admissions has argued that instead of considering race, schools should implement class-aware admissions practices, according to Reuters. The group has said that this approach would cultivate a diverse student body.

Richard Kahlenberg, who serves as an expert witness for Students for Fair Admissions, shares this view, noting that considering class and income in admissions will automatically benefit Black people.

“I have long supported giving an admissions break to economically disadvantaged students of all races because then race is not counted as an important factor,” Kahlenberg said in an interview. “However, America’s economic status reflects a brutal history of racial discrimination and ongoing defiance. In particular, I think it is very important to consider family wealth.”

Kahlenberg said class-conscious admissions is a more palatable position, less politically charged, and likely to garner more public support than prioritizing race. He said he is confident that a shift toward class considerations would produce racially diverse student bodies on campus, and if it didn’t, he would support race-conscious admissions.

“I think the Americans are looking for a middle ground,” he said. “In my opinion, some of the most powerful cases for affirmative action involved low-income, working-class Black people who have overcome adversity. A big advantage of the class approach is that it would be reaching the black and Hispanic working class.

However, a study from March Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University found that admissions practices that consider class but not race would leave selective colleges without the representation of Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander students seen in US high schools.

For such an approach to work without affirmative action, the study found, schools would have to overhaul their entire admissions process, which would include removing consideration of student athletic talent and legacy admissions. Additionally, schools without large scholarship endowments would be limited in their ability to select applicants who cannot afford full tuition.

Now, as the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s decision, Bigham said affirmative action supporters should push higher education institutions to prioritize diversity in any way they can.

“One thing we can do is hold our institutions accountable,” Bigham said. «Make sure we hold our institutions to stay mission driven, make sure they do their part.»