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Perhaps a higher number of colleges than expected consider legacy admissions
Following the abolishment of affirmative action in college admissions, legacy admissions are now facing scrutiny. New data released by the National Center for Education Sciences reveals the widespread nature of this practice.
According to the data published on Tuesday, nearly 600 colleges assess whether applicants have any familial connection to the institution they are applying to. The survey conducted by NCES identified 579 colleges that consider legacy admissions as of fall 2022. This accounts for approximately one-third of the surveyed colleges with competitive admissions, where students cannot directly enroll and begin classes. NCES stated that this is the first time they have collected information on this practice.
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Although NCES did not disclose the specific colleges that responded affirmatively, the number indicates that legacy admissions extend beyond the most prestigious universities like those in the Ivy League.
In response to the findings, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona emphasized the importance of having access to data on legacy applicants. He stated that it is crucial for colleges and universities to reevaluate their admissions practices and work towards building diverse student bodies, especially after the Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling on affirmative action earlier this year.
Who benefits from legacy admissions?
In the ruling on Harvard and the University of North Carolina, Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed his concerns about Harvard’s utilization of legacy admissions in his concurring opinion. He highlighted that these admissions tend to primarily benefit specific individuals.
Gorsuch wrote, “Its preferences for the children of donors, alumni, and faculty are no help to applicants who cannot boast of their parents’ good fortune or trips to the alumni tent all their lives. While race-neutral on their face, too, these preferences undoubtedly benefit white and wealthy applicants the most.”
According to a 2019 analysis conducted on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Harvard and UNC cases, 43% of Harvard’s white admitted students were legacy students, recruited athletes, children of faculty and staff, or applicants affiliated with donors.
Shortly after the ruling, a civil rights group filed a federal complaint against Harvard with the Education Department regarding this practice. In response, the agency initiated an investigation.
However, some colleges have decided to no longer consider applicants’ connections to their institutions. The University of Virginia, for example, removed the option on its application for students to indicate personal or historical ties with the university. Other colleges that have recently changed their policies include Amherst College, the University of Minnesota, and Wesleyan University.
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