Ending the Legacy Advantage
The Editorial Board of The New York Times recently penned a piece calling for an end to the practice of offering preferential treatment to legacies in the college admission process. As we’ve long championed ending legacy admissions, we sure did like the editorial — and particularly because the editorial board proposed practical ideas for how universities could eliminate the practice while not significantly hurting their bottom lines. We are all for calling for change in the admissions process, especially change like this. But these proposals should be presented with reasonable ideas for a path forward.
High-Income Students’ Parents Fill College Financial Aid Coffers
But unlike The Editorial Board of The New York Times, not every call for change come hand in hand with reasonable ideas for a path forward. In fact, in a letter to the editor written in response to The Editorial Board’s missive, a former president of Vassar College, Catharine B. Hill, wrote, “The call to end legacy admissions is a smokescreen, and neither necessary nor sufficient to improve higher education’s contribution to economic and social mobility. America’s well-resourced colleges practicing legacy admissions should allocate greater resources to need-based financial aid, and recruit and admit those talented students who need it. These students are out there. That means either taking fewer higher-income students, wherever their parents went to college, or increasing the size of entering classes to make room for a more socioeconomically diverse and deserving student body. That would contribute most to the public good.”
Glossing Over the Fact that the Well-Heeled Subsidize Low-Income Students is a Mistake
We imagine that the former president of Vassar’s letter leaves our readers scratching their heads. After all, where exactly does the former president of Vassar think financial aid dollars are — in large part — coming from? We’ll tell you! From donations given to schools by alumni, the parents and grandparents of “high-income students.” The former administrator believes our nation’s elite colleges should “allocate greater resources to need-based financial aid” but where — oh where — does she think these dollars are coming from if not from alumni, if not from well-heeled donors?
We are all for ending the practice of legacy admission. We at Ivy Coach have said as much countless times over the years from atop our soapbox in college admissions. But to end this practice, let’s not sugarcoat anything as that won’t do any good. To end legacy admission, we’ve got to first recognize that the parents of high-income students — the customers, if you will, of our nation’s elite universities — fill the financial aid coffers so that deserving low-income students can be educated by these very institutions.
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