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Legacy College Admissions Come Under Fire In New Report

已有 374 次阅读2022-11-2 11:07 |个人分类:US|系统分类:转帖-时事政治经济

Legacy admissions - the practice of a college giving preferential admissions treatment to the children of its alumni - is facing intense

 criticism in a new report that documents the extent of the practice and also calls for legislation and other policies that would curtail or even end it.

The new report, prepared by Education Reform Now (ERN), with financial support from the Kresge Foundation, is part of ERN’s The Future of Fair Admissions series, 

written with regard to the Supreme Court’s hearing on Monday of two cases challenging the legality of race-conscious admission policies 

at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

Use of Legacy Preferences Is Widespread, But Decreasing

The practice of giving admission preference to legacy applicants has a long history, extending back to the 1920s, when some colleges began

 to use the practice as a backdoor strategy for limiting the number of Jewish, minority and immigrant students by giving preference

 to alumni’s children who were seldom Jewish, people of color or immigrants.

Objections to Legacy Admissions

Legacy preference has been sharply criticized for years, by both higher education insiders and the general public, and by Democrats and Republicans. However, objections to the practice have gained new momentum recently for at least four reasons.


1. The recent Varsity Blues admissions cheating scandal drew renewed attention to the scope of the practice and the extent to which unscrupulous actors were willing to use it to their personal advantage.


2.Several prominent institutions, including Texas A & M University, Purdue University, the California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University and Amherst College, have taken steps to end their use of legacy preferences, bringing more scrutiny to those schools who cling to it. The ERN report states that at least 102 colleges and universities that once considered legacy status in their admissions process have stopped doing so since 2015.

3.The substantial size of the advantage conveyed to legacies has become better known. The “tip” that legacy applicants receive is not insignificant, although quantifying it is difficult because most schools guard those data from public view. Those tips tend to go to applicants who, as the children of elite college graduates, already enjoy a number of economic and educational benefits. It’s a bit like giving Tacko Fall, at 7’6”, the tallest player in the NBA, a pair of elevator shoes.

A 2007 study of 30 highly selective colleges found that legacy applicants were three times more likely to be admitted as equally qualified non-legacy applicants. Legacy applicants at Harvard are roughly six times more likely to be admitted than non-legacy and non-athlete applicants are. In his new book Poison Ivy, Evan Mandery reports that elite colleges typically reserve between 10-25% of their admits for legacy applicants.

The percentage of the freshmen class admitted at several colleges via the legacy route exceeds the percentage of entering freshmen who are Black, According to ERN. For example, at Notre Dame, 21% of freshmen in the 2020 entering class were legacies, 4% were Black. At Harvard, 14% of the entering class were legacies, double the percentage of Black freshmen at 7%. Similar ratios were found at Stanford University, the University of North Carolina, and Cornell.

Finally, the much anticipated and closely watched legal challenges brought by Students for Fair Admissions to the affirmative action admission practices at Harvard and the University of North Carolina have brought increased scrutiny to legacy admissions.

If, as many legal experts expect, the Supreme Court decides to prohibit consideration of students’ race in university admissions, it will likely have ramifications for legacy preferences, which overwhelmingly favor white students. If colleges are required to practice race-neutral admissions policies, they may also be forced to abandon practices - like legacy preferences - that discriminate against students from underrepresented minority groups.

Efforts to Curtail The Practice

Colleges that give a legacy preference usually offer two justifications for the practice. First, they claim that they will raise more private donations from alumni if they give a leg up to their children. In turn, those funds can be used to help more lower-income students afford to attend. Think of it as Ivory Tower trickle-down.

Second, they argue that students of college-educated parents are more likely to persist and ultimately complete an undergraduate degree than those students whose parents did not attend college. It’s higher ed’s Darwinian formula - the survival of the well-heeled.

Those justifications are becoming increasingly difficult to swallow, and some states are taking action to limit or end the practice. California passed a law that requires colleges to report to the government if they have a legacy admissions policy. Colorado bars legacy admissions by its public colleges and universities.

In New York, a bill was introduced this year that would ban the use of legacy preferences at both public and private universities. Connecticut legislators have considered a similar bill, which has been opposed by many colleges and universities in the state.

At the federal level, Senator Jeff Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) have introduced the Fair College Admissions for Students Act, which would prohibit institutions of higher education participating in federal student assistance programs - which includes most colleges - from giving preferential treatment in admissions to legacy students or the children of donors.

Besides the appearance of fundamental unfairness, the practice of legacy admissions at America’s highly selective colleges is problematic because most of these schools accept so few qualified students to begin with. Further narrowing their range of admissions by giving preference to children of alumni is difficult to justify while these institutions also simultaneously claim to be devoted to notions of merit, equality and social mobility.

The ERN report recommends four other policies that would reduce, if not eliminate, legacy admission preferences.

1. Have the U.S. Department of Education collect data from institutions as part of its IPEDS reporting that would identify whether and to what extent a college employs legacy admissions.

2. Make revenue from Title IV federal financial aid conditional on the elimination of legacy preference by enacting legislation similar to the Fair College Admissions for Students Act.

3. State legislatures could take a similar course and make some portion of the state appropriation for operations and/or financial aid contingent on the elimination of legacy preferences.

4. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act places a 1.4% tax on university endowment income for those universities with 500 or more students and endowment assets above $500,000 per student. According to the ERN report, 39 of the 44 universities and colleges meeting the threshold for the endowment tax in fiscal year 2021 provided a legacy preference. Congress could impose an additional tax on those institutions that are subject to the endowment tax if they provide a legacy preference and lower the tax for those that don’t.

A college’s decision to do away with legacy admissions may anger some alumni. It might even occasionally lead some to withhold a donation or discourage their children from applying, although the evidence for such effects is mighty slim. Those universities that have done away with affirmative action for the children of alumni have not suffered. Neither their enrollments nor their donations have plunged. They’ve done the right thing. More colleges need to follow their lead and end a practice increasingly recognized for doing far more harm than good.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2022/10/30/legacy-college-admissions-come-under-fire-in-new-report/?sh=535eebc5f077




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