Students, with the help of family, apply to college at an HBCU college fair. Photo: Black Hour/Flickr

In an official guidance issued by the Department of Education today, the Obama administration encouraged colleges and universities to continue to use race-conscious admissions policies to compose their incoming classes. The guidance is the administration's first clarification to schools on how to proceed after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Fisher v. Texas this summer.

"The Departments of Education and Justice strongly support diversity in higher education," the letter said. "Racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in our increasingly diverse nation.  The future workforce of America must be able to transcend the boundaries of race, language, and culture as our economy becomes more globally interconnected."

With its guidance, the Department of Education is trying to head off colleges' skittishness about how to use race-conscious admissions policies after the Supreme Court essentially opened the door to future legal challenges this summer.