FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2012 file photo, Abigail Fisher, right, who sued the University of Texas, walks outside the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court has sent a Texas case on race-based college admissions back to a lower court for another look. The court's 7-1 decision Monday leaves unsettled many of the basic questions about the continued use of race as a factor in college admissions. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- For now, affirmative action in college admissions can still survive the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.
In a ruling that avoided some difficult constitutional issues, the justices said a court may approve the use of race as a factor in admissions -- but only after it concludes that "no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity."
The decision didn't question the underpinnings of affirmative action, which the court last reaffirmed a decade ago.
The high court ordered the federal appeals court in New Orleans to take another look at the case of Abigail Fisher. She's a white Texan who wasn't offered a spot at the University of Texas in Austin in 2008. She has since received a degree from Louisiana State.
The justices said the appeals court didn't apply the highest level of judicial scrutiny when it upheld a Texas plan that uses race as one among many factors in admitting about a quarter of the university's incoming freshmen.
The school gives the bulk of the slots to Texans who are admitted based on their high school class rank, without regard to race.