Virginia’s Chambers Pass Bills Prohibiting Legacy Admissions

Legislation that would prohibit Virginia’s public colleges and universities from giving preferential treatment in admission decisions to students with connections to alumni and donors is expected to be sent to Gov. Glenn Youngkin later this session.

The Virginia House joined the Senate on Tuesday in unanimously approving the proposal. Both bills, which are identical, must now pass in the opposite chambers before reaching the governor for his approval.

Christian Martinez, spokesperson for Youngkin, signaled that the governor is likely to sign the measures.

“The governor will assess any legislation that comes to his desk, but believes that admission to Virginia’s universities and colleges should be based on merit,” he stated.

The proposed ban comes after the U.S. Supreme Court abolished affirmative action in higher education institutions nationwide in June. Following the court’s ruling that race-based admission policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina were unconstitutional, schools in Virginia have been revising their admission policies.

A study conducted by think tank Education Reform Now found that “most beneficiaries of legacy preferences are white.” It also identified Virginia as one of five states where a majority of public colleges and universities provide admission advantages to the children of alumni.

“All House Bill 48 states is that parental legacy or donor status will not play a role in determining admissions to colleges and public universities in Virginia,” stated Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, who sponsored the House bill, during a subcommittee meeting earlier this month.

Both Democrats and Republicans have shown support for this change.

“I believe it is completely discriminatory to grant special privileges to individuals based on their parents’ background, contributions, or the college they attended,” said Del. Thomas Garrett, R-Goochland, during the same meeting.

Garrett expressed his support for the proposal in order to “address discrimination and establish a fair playing field for all Virginians.”

Last week, the Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Richmond, also received unanimous approval.

According to Education Reform Now, over 100 colleges and universities have discontinued legacy admissions since 2015, but as of 2020, 787 institutions still practice this approach.

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