A federal appeals court has found no federal civil rights violation in Harvard's admissions process, in a ruling that upholds a district court decision and puts the case "on track" to head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The district court did not clearly err in finding that Harvard did not intentionally discriminate against Asian Americans," the appellate panel said.
A nonprofit, Students for Fair Admissions, sued Harvard in 2014 alleging the Ivy League school discriminated against Asian American students, who the group said are admitted at a lower rate than students of other racial groups.
The group's lawsuit alleged Asian American applicants had better academic records but lower personal ratings than Black and Hispanic students. The U.S. government joined in arguing Harvard engages in unlawful racial balancing.
Harvard said it considered race only in the way allowed by the Supreme Court, and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
"The district court properly concluded that Harvard does not utilize quotas and does not engage in racial balancing," the decision said.
"The issue before us is whether Harvard's limited use of race in its admissions process in order to achieve diversity in the period in question is consistent with the requirements of Supreme Court precedent. There was no error."
Students for Fair Admissions said the lawsuit is now on track to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We will ask the justices to end these unfair and unconstitutional race-based admissions policies at Harvard and all colleges and universities," Edward Blum, the group's president, said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.
"Today's decision once again finds that Harvard's admissions policies are consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and lawfully and appropriately pursue Harvard's efforts to create a diverse campus that promotes learning and encourages mutual respect and understanding in our community. As we have said time and time again, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity," a Harvard spokeswoman said in a statement to ABC News.