Congressional Bill Seeks to End Inherited Preferences in College Admissions | News

U.S. Sen. Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representative Jamaal A. Bowman (DN.Y.) last week introduced legislation in Congress barring institutions that participate in federal student aid programs from give preference to applicants with legacy status.

Many universities currently offer benefits in the admissions process to children of alumni. A 2018 document filed in a lawsuit against Harvard’s admissions process noted that the school accepted more than 33% of legacy applicants between 2013 and 2018, prompting new calls for transparency in preference. given to inheritance.

Lawmakers who introduced the bill argue it would make college admissions fairer.

“Selecting university applicants based on surnames, relationships or the size of their bank accounts creates an unequal playing field for students without these built-in benefits, which has a particular impact on minority students and first generation,” Merkley wrote in an emailed statement. .

The bill – named the Fair College Admissions for Students Act – aims to counteract advantages held by inherited applicants and ensure equal access to higher education, he wrote.

Harvard College spokeswoman Rachael Dane wrote in an email that heritage is “one of several factors in our admissions process.”

Kevin D. Brown, a law professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, said the bill, if passed, could reduce donations from families of prospective students, putting the finances of colleges at risk. universities that rely on alumni contributions.

“They are able to raise funds from donors, in part because donors anticipate a benefit for their children in the admissions process,” Brown said. “And of course that would raise questions about the age-old practices of generational students attending the same universities.”

Edward J. Blum — president of Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative action group that is currently suing Harvard for its race-conscious admissions practices — disagreed. He wrote in an emailed statement that some universities that have eliminated consideration of legacy status in admissions have been able to maintain and even increase donor donations.

Viet A. Nguyen — a Harvard Kennedy School student who co-founded a campaign to stop universities giving preference to legacy applicants — called the idea that ending legacy admissions will hurt donor donations a “myth.”

“It’s been kind of a boogeyman argument that people have used to retain inherited preferences when there’s no real data proving it supports that conclusion,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen called legacy admissions “one of many” systemic problems in college admissions.

“This is the first step in a long series for us to remove some of these systemic inequities in the admissions process,” Nguyen said.

Brown predicted that the law would disproportionately disadvantage upper-class white applicants due to the historical lack of student diversity in higher education.

“Until the 1960s, these were almost exclusively white institutions,” Brown said. “This is an area that will definitely impact admissions of white students, and especially upperclass white students more than anyone else.”

Sally Rubenstone, former senior advisor to the College Confidential online forum, pointed to efforts to diversify college demographics through initiatives such as affirmative action over the past few decades.

“I find it ironic that now, today, as students who have benefited from these revised admissions practices have finally reached the age when their own children – or grandchildren – apply to college, their status as ”legacy’ is evaporating,” Rubenstone wrote. in an email.

“Nevertheless, there is a critical mass of non-white applicants – particularly in the more selective schools – whose parents or grandparents once broke down barriers at elite colleges but will no longer receive the special favor that had been given to some of their white classmates decades ago,” she added.

—Writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at [email protected]

—Editor Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at [email protected]

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