(NBC NEWS) -- The Supreme Court has issued a decision that casts doubt on the future of Affirmative Action in higher education.
In a seven-to-one ruling the high court sent the case against the University of Texas Austin back to a lower court.
The justices ordered that university officials be held to a stricter legal standard in proving there were no factors other than race that could be used to build a more diverse student body.
"The court is making sure that courts will scrutinize affirmative action programs more carefully," says Suzanna Sherry of the Vanderbilt University School of Law. "The court seems to have gone out of its way to not strike down all of affirm action."
But the ruling did cast doubt on the future of Affirmative Action, at least when it comes to higher education.
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS NOW HAS TO PROVE IT HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO CONSIDER RACE IN ADMISSIONS IN AN EFFORT TO BUILD A DIVERSE STUDENT BODY.
"We think use of ethnicity is necessary - under strict scrutiny - to achieve that compelling goal," said university president Bill Powers.
And CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATES SEE THIS AS A WIN BECAUSE THE COURT'S CONSERVATIVE WING DIDN'T USE THIS CASE AND THIS TIME TO STRIKE DOWN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.
"What we heard from the court today is very clear. race continues to have a place in college admissions," said the NAACP's Benjamin Todd Jealous.
"If they show us that they really do need these programs, that there isn't a race neutral way of getting diversity in higher education, then for now at least, programs are constitutional and you can use them," adds Supreme Court expert Tom Goldstein.
Even though this was scheduled to be the last decision day of this term the court still has three potentially landmark decisions: Two same sex marriage cases and one challenging the 1965 Voting Rights Act.