Is CO right to ban legacy college admissions?
- A legacy student is one whose parents or relatives graduated from the university of admission.
- On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, Colorado became the first state banning legacy college admissions. Governor Jared Polis also removed the requirement to review SAT and ACT scores for incomers.
- Texas A&M University and Johns Hopkins University were the first universities to ban legacy admissions, the first in 2004, and the second in 2020.
- According to a poll by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup, 51 percent of private school students believe legacy should be reviewed, while public school goers say 21 percent.
It may be only a token gesture that Colorado's public colleges and universities will no longer consider legacy admissions, but it is at least a step in the right direction. The fact that private schools are exempt from the new law may mean that huge changes are not immediately evident, given estimates that only 6% of public universities consider legacy applications to begin with. But incremental change is better than no change.
Ending legacy preference puts acceptance for higher education where it should be: on one's merits, especially in a country focused on equal opportunity. Whether intentional or not, legacy admissions have perpetuated the increased ability of wealthy, predominantly White students to further their advantages by attending top universities. Ending this preferential treatment allows students to shine on the merits of their efforts and successes alone. Preferential treatment based on immutable characteristics such as race is not a good course of action, but neither is preference based on a family's ability to contribute financially to a school, no matter the loyalty it may foster.
College should be a time of broadening one's exposure to those who think and feel differently from oneself. Fostering racial, economic, and social diversity among a student body is a good way to accomplish that goal. Ending legacies helps expand such diversity.
Colorado is moving in the right direction by disallowing legacy admissions at its public colleges and universities. More states would do well to follow their lead and that of esteemed institutions such as Johns Hopkins, MIT, or CalTech, and help foster the work ethic to get into a college that will inevitably help one get through college.
Legacy admissions are an American University tradition, and many families and schools have benefited from the pride, support, and bond that comes with a student's legacy admission. If a student's family attended the same university, that family and that student once they graduate are more likely to donate money to the school because it ties to their family. Without these donations, universities would have a harder time staying up and running, and they'd have to be even more selective with their admissions process. According to NPR, '67% of middle- to high-income students in Colorado enroll in bachelor's degree programs [. . .] while 47% of low-income students do.' While this may seem like a reason to do away with legacy admissions, it actually just means that more wealthy students will go to private schools, leaving public universities more expensive for less wealthy students.
Legacy admissions don't guarantee admission—they're only one factor. In addition, the community that's built amongst legacy students can be an important factor in some students feeling comfortable enough to be away from home for four years. They find comfort in being around peers like them. There is something to be said for the fact that legacy admissions are a tradition. Something isn't bad just because it's rooted in tradition, and those students should be able to take advantage of it. When a student is admitted to a school that their family has gone to for generations, they feel a sense of pride and responsibility to make the school, and their family, proud. They know that they were selected partially because of that legacy, and they want to keep the tradition alive.