Legacy admissions should be abolished

October 16, 2010 — by Jennifer Jin

Students are often told that all that is needed to get into a good college are good SAT scores, good grades and good extracurricular activities.

But for some students, all it takes is their parents.

A legacy admission is a type of preference given by educational institutions to certain applicants on the basis of their familial relationship to alumni of that institution.

A study led by Princeton University sociology professor Tomas Espenshade claimed that having a legacy at a university gives an applicant an advantage equivalent to an extra 160 points on the SAT.

As a result, many students with outstanding academic records may not have as good of a chance of being admitted into their college of choice compared to their peers, with worse academic records, who have legacy at the school.

According to an article written by The Wall Street Journal, Henry Park, born to middle-class immigrants, attended Groton School, a boarding school well known for its outstanding college placement record. In fact, 34 of 79 members in his graduating class were accepted into Ivy League universities. Park ranked 14th in his graduating class of 1998 and earned a prestigious SAT score of 1560 out of 1600, but was rejected from Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Stanford, and MIT. However, many of his classmates whose ranks and SAT scores were much lower were accepted by those same schools, due to legacy connections to the school.

Many top colleges boast about their low acceptance rate or high diversity, but one thing that they don't mention is the acceptance rate of legacy students.

As of 2004, children of graduates make up 10 to 15 percent of incoming classes at most Ivy League schools. Harvard accepts 40 percent and Princeton accepts 35 percent of legacies but only 11 percent of all applicants.

Many private colleges argue that legacy admissions are needed. Many alumni donate to their alma maters and in order to keep that flow of cash going, colleges have "no choice" but to accept children of graduates.

However a study has shown that legacy preferences do not increase universities' revenue, nor do they influence fundraising.

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) raised $71 million in alumni donations in 2008, while Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) raised $77 million. One difference is that Caltech does not provide legacy preferences, while MIT does. Furthermore, MIT is five times larger, therefore having more alumni, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Among the top 100 colleges, the average amount of money donated per alumni at schools that provided legacy preferences was $317, compared to $201 at non-legacy schools; however, the alumni from colleges with legacy admissions tended to be wealthier.

It is true that when a legacy student is rejected into that school, donations stop, but only for a while. After the parents recover from their anger, and the child goes on and does well at another college, they continue to donate.

Because alumni of top schools tend to be wealthier and white, legacy admissions are a form of affirmative action for the wealthy.

Minorities make up 12.5 percent of the applicant pool, but only 6.7 percent of the legacy-applicant pool. At Harvard, only 7.6 percent of legacy admits in 2002 were minorities, compared with 17.8 percent of all students. At the University of Virginia, 91 percent of early-decision legacy admits in 2002 were white, 1.6 percent were black, and 0.5 percent were Hispanic, according to the Chronicle of Education.

Clearly, the legacy factor is outdated and in need of extinction. It's about time universities make the change.

1 view this week