Paul L. Caron
Dean


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

NY Times: End Legacy College Admissions

New York Times Editorial, End Legacy College Admissions:

A country struggling with deeply rooted inequality need not continue an affirmative action program for successful families.

For nearly a century, many American college and university admissions officers have given preferential treatment to the children of alumni.

The policies originated in the 1920s, coinciding with an influx of Jewish and Catholic applicants to the country’s top schools. They continue today, placing a thumb on the scale in favor of students who already enjoy the benefits of being raised by families with elite educations. Of the country’s top 100 schools (as determined by the editors at U.S. News & World Report), roughly three-quarters have legacy preferences in admissions. These anachronistic policies have been called “affirmative action for the rich” and “affirmative action for whites.”

Preferential treatment for legacy admissions is anti-meritocratic, inhibits social mobility and helps perpetuate a de facto class system. In short, it is an engine of inequity. Little wonder that it is unpopular with most Americans, yet supported by the affluent who both oversee the college admissions process and are its primary beneficiaries.

Legacy admissions are no ordinary leg up. In 2011, a Harvard researcher who studied 30 of the nation’s most selective schools found that all legacy applicants had a 23 percent higher probability of admission, while “primary legacy” students (those with a parent who attended the school as an undergraduate, rather than, say, a grandparent or aunt) had a 45 percent higher probability compared with their peers, all other things being equal. ...

Whatever the mechanism, it makes sense for a group of competitor schools to take the leap together, a mutual stand-down. Doing so would be in the best traditions of American higher education, which for decades has worked to extend opportunity to generations of poor and minority students. Inaction by the academy, on the other hand, risks fueling a growing public sense that higher education is part of the crisis of the American establishment.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2019/09/ny-times-end-legacy-college-admissions.html

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Comments

"Legacy admissions are no ordinary leg up. In 2011, a Harvard researcher who studied 30 of the nation’s most selective schools found that all legacy applicants had a 23 percent higher probability of admission, while “primary legacy” students (those with a parent who attended the school as an undergraduate, rather than, say, a grandparent or aunt) had a 45 percent higher probability compared with their peers, all other things being equal. …"

Seems a good place to mention that Justice Brett, who will undoubtedly be the fifth vote to overturn AA in the near future (just as soon as Donors Trust and the guy behind Shelby County, Fisher, and the Harvard litigation find another whiny plaintiff), said under oath that he had no connections to Yale and got in by "busting his butt" even though one of his grandfathers was, you guessed it, a Yale grad.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 18, 2019 12:04:57 PM

Higher education shares with our public lands (parks, forests and BLM lands) the distinction that, while everyone pays for them, what they offer is mostly enjoyed by Whites and seldom by our citizens of a different color, whether Black, Brown or even Red.

Posted by: Jimbino | Sep 19, 2019 9:48:27 AM

What if an Ivy school, instead of waiting for "a mutual stand-down" that might never occur, chose to form an elite college on its campus that accepted no legacy admits at all, but instead chose its students solely by objective, universally accessible criteria (e.g., tests open to all applicants)? That hypothetical bold Ivy school would enjoy a first-mover advantage.

Posted by: Micha Elyi | Sep 19, 2019 2:30:17 PM

Legacy admits foster a multi-generational loyalty that is beneficial to a private educational institution. Nothing at all wrong with it. Whether such admits are at tension with the tax policies that animate 501(c)(3) qualification is another question.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Sep 20, 2019 5:31:58 AM

Jimbino, the case you make is relevant for public institutions, not private ones.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Sep 20, 2019 5:34:16 AM

It is beyond adorable when a man who's distinguishing characteristic is "whiny" loosely throws the term around at others.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Sep 20, 2019 5:38:29 AM

Micha Elyi -- that "hypothetical bold Ivy school" is pretty much what CalTech and MIT do in their admissions. But, you end up with a very skewed student body that only knows how to interact with other computer/science geeks.

Posted by: John Saunders | Sep 20, 2019 11:15:55 AM

The feeling's mutual, Mikey.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 22, 2019 5:38:22 PM

"Higher education shares with our public lands (parks, forests and BLM lands) the distinction that, while everyone pays for them, what they offer is mostly enjoyed by Whites and seldom by our citizens of a different color, whether Black, Brown or even Red."
Except the first is due to inability to gain admission, whereas the others are due to the aggregation of individual voluntary choices made because of what they are interested in doing. What a stupid comment.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Sep 23, 2019 3:43:42 AM