The Supreme Court agreed to hear cases in a pair of affirmative action cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina that will challenge whether the school's admissions process is legal.

Harvard has been accused of discriminating against Asian-American students and UNC faces claims of discrimination against white and Asian-American students by giving preference to black and Native American students. Two lower courts ruled the schools' limited consideration of race was a legitimate effort to achieve a diverse student body.

“Harvard’s race-conscious admission program ensures that Harvard can retain the benefits of diversity it has already achieved,” ruled US circuit judge Sandra Lynch in the US appeals court.

Both cases are being brought by the Students for Fair Admissions, a group founded by Edward Blume of Maine, who has filed many lawsuits challenging race-conscious admissions policies and voting rights laws.

The court had previously upheld a 2016 ruling in Fisher vs. University of Texas where Blume argued the school discriminated against a white applicant. The court ruled 4-3 to uphold affirmative action with Justice Kennedy being the only conservative ruling in favor of the policy. Justice Antonin Scalia had died a few months before the vote and Justice Elena Kagan recused herself. 

The makeup of the court has since shifted following former President Donald Trump's appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett to the high court, so a reversal of its previous decision is possible. 

"Mandating race-blind admissions programs would undermine those universities' ability to engage in the kind of individualized review that yields a class that is both diverse and excellent," Harvard's lawyers told the court.

Blume issued a statement saying, “It is our hope that the justices will end the use of race as an admissions factor at Harvard, UNC, and all colleges and universities,” adding a student's race should not be used to help or harm them in their future endeavors. 

The Supreme Court will likely hear the cases in the next term, which begins in October 2022.