How is affirmative action used in college admissions?

Answers to some frequently asked questions as the Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on the issue again

The Supreme Court said it will again review whether colleges may consider race in admissions policies. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court is again taking up the controversial question of how much race can be considered in college admissions, or whether it should even be considered at all.

On Monday the court will hear oral arguments in lawsuits against the race-conscious admission processes at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It had announced in January that it would review lower-court rulings in the cases, continuing a long-running national debate over affirmative action in higher education.

A plaintiff called Students for Fair Admissions had alleged in two separate suits filed in 2014 that the processes were riddled with unlawful racial bias. In each case, lower courts ruled against the plaintiff and upheld the systems the two universities use.