CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court is debating a case for affirmative action in college admissions.

The justices heard arguments to end race-conscious admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina on Monday. They could decide that the consideration of race is discrimination.

Kim Forde-Mazrui, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, explains what the decision could mean for diversity in student populations.

"UVA would have to consider factors other than race, which probably means they'll be fewer African American, Latino, and Native American students," he said.

Forde-Mazrui said that on average, Black and Latino students may not have the same grades and scores as white students because of fewer opportunities, so using only those criteria could decrease their chances.

"I think if people understood the reason we need affirmative action is because of a long history of denying opportunities to, especially Black Americans, then people might be more supportive of affirmative action," he said.

Affirmative action involves policies and practices within an organization that aims to include people based on their gender, race, sexuality, or nationality where such groups are underrepresented, like in higher education.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson voiced her concerns about why diversity could be harmed by ending race-based admissions programs.

"I'm worried that that creates an inequity in the system with being able to express your identity, and importantly have it valued by the university when it is considering the goal of bringing in different people,” Jackson said.

Forde-Mazrui says affirmative action is more than just supporting diversity.

"When they think of affirmative action and why it's important, it's to remedy the effects of historical discrimination," he said.

The court will likely not release its ruling in the case until the end of the term, which will be in late spring.