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Colleges Face Pressure to Abandon Legacy Admissions

Colleges Face Pressure to Abandon Legacy Admissions

Affirmative action is now banned, but what about legacy admissions?

After the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action admissions at U.S. colleges, universities are being urged to do away with another form of preference-based admissions.

Whereas affirmative action admissions seeks to uplift students who may have been overlooked because of their race, legacy admissions give preference to applicants based on their familial relationship to alumni.

When denouncing the Supreme Court decision against affirmative action last month, President Joe Biden noted that “legacy admissions” are a practice “that expand privilege instead of opportunity.” In the wake of the ruling, some universities are being urged to abolish legacy admissions, as they offer even more of an unfair advantage to applicants.

Some colleges have already followed through, as Wesleyan University announced Wednesday that it would no longer give any admission preference to “legacy” applicants.

“We still value the ongoing relationships that come from multi-generational Wesleyan attendance, but there will be no ‘bump’ in the selection process,” university president Michael S. Roth said in a statement. “As has been almost always the case for a long time, family members of alumni will be admitted on their own merits.”

Other universities doing away with the practice include Amherst College, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Minnesota, which each put an end to legacy admissions following the affirmative action ruling. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has not used legacy admissions for over a decade.

Harvard University was recently the subject of a complaint from the Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) organization, filed with the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, who accused the college of favoring applicants based on familial connections.

According to the complaint, students whose parents donated to Harvard or are Harvard Alumni make up 15 percent of admissions. Data from 2014 to 2019 suggests that donor-related applicants were nearly 7 times more likely to be admitted to Harvard than non-donor applicants.

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it," said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of LCR. "Your family’s last name and the size of your bank account are not a measure of merit, and should have no bearing on the college admissions process."

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