The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on "investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions".
Last June, the high court ruled - in a case involving a white student protesting affirmative action at the University of Texas - that schools could continue using race as one among many factors in admissions decisions.
A Justice Department spokesman told Reuters the department would not comment on personnel matters. "The Department of Justice will always review credible allegations of discrimination on the basis of any race". At the time of its introduction, the focus was on government contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin".
For supporters of affirmative action in college admissions, the news was a shock.
In other words, affirmative action for those from college-educated families - families that, as above, are more likely to be white - was viewed as more acceptable than affirmative action for black or Hispanic students.
A conservative administration less steeped in the ideology of white nationalism might have chosen to tackle college admissions from the angle of economics, promoting income-based admissions criteria that many voters across the political spectrum would have a hard time disagreeing with.
While the document does not explicitly identify whom the department considers at risk of discrimination, the Times suggested the use of the phrase "intentional race-based discrimination" signalled that programs created to bring more minority students to university campuses are being targeted.
Coretta Scott King in 1986 told the United States Senate that "I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence, and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws' to serve as a federal judge".
The issue was most recently scrutinized by the Supreme Court in 2016 when justices voted 4-3 in favor of a race-counscious admissions program at the University of Texas Austin despite a white student named Abigail Fisher alleging she was denied admission because she is white.
"And it is frequently the case not only are whites discriminated against now, but Asian-Americans are as well."
Minority students made up more than 40 percent of the freshman classes at almost all Ivy League schools in 2015, according to the most recent federal data, while only two topped that mark in 2010.