The practice of offering preferential treatment in admissions to the children and grandchildren of a school’s alumni base is a practice that is an anachronism in this young century. And it’s not one of those cute anachronisms like a typewriter on a mahogany executive desk (with an iPhone conspicuously charging beneath said desk). It is a practice that belongs in a time before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, before Obergefell v. Hodges, before our country’s proud march towards equality for all. Today, one of our nation’s leading voices against the practice of legacy admission, Richard Kahlenberg, lifted his voice once again in a well argued piece for “The Atlantic.” His writings on the subject are deserving of a read.
A Call to End Legacy Admission
As Kahlenberg writes in his piece entitled “A New Call to End Legacy Admissions,” “Many college officials defend legacy preferences as a mere tiebreaker among otherwise equally qualified applicants… Research from the Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade of 10 highly selective colleges suggests being a legacy provides a boost equivalent to scoring 160 points higher on the SAT (out of 1600 points). And in 2011, research on 30 elite schools from the higher-education expert Michael Hurwitz found that the children of alumni saw a 45 percentage-point increase in their chances of admission compared to otherwise equally qualified candidates who were not legacies, controlling for factors such as SAT scores, athlete status, gender, race, and ‘many less-quantifiable characteristics.’ At many prestigious colleges, the relatives of alumni abound on campus. A recent Harvard Crimson survey of the class of 2021 found that 29 percent of students had a relative who attended Harvard. This proportion far outnumbered those whose parents lacked a four-year college degree.”
We Echo the Call to End Legacy Admission
For many years, we have used Ivy Coach’s soapbox in the world of college admissions to echo the call to end legacy admission. Just a couple of weeks ago, we participated in a podcast with Richard Kahlenberg for the University of Pennsylvania’s newspaper, “The Daily Pennsylvanian.” Have a listen to the arguments for and against legacy admission to get a sense of both sides of the controversial issue. While there are many arguments for and against the practice, there is one argument that could potentially end legacy admission once and for all: legacy admission violates tax law, specifically 26 U.S. Code § 170. People should not receive any benefits for making tax-deductible donations to their alma maters, including preferential treatment for their children in admissions.
All that’s needed to challenge legacy admission in the courts is an Edward Blum-type figure, the powerful one-man band (who isn’t even a lawyer) who has made ending Affirmative Action his raison d’être. …Edward? But Edward’s busy challenging race-based admissions and we have a feeling he sees no issue with legacy admission. After all, it’s a practice that overwhelmingly favors Caucasian applicants. But maybe soon Edward will take issue with legacy admission too…as the children of underrepresented minorities who attended elite universities begin to apply to college in what will be a turning tide?
A Word to the Peanut Gallery
And to our critics who believe that the only reason we oppose the practice of legacy admission is because legacy students don’t need the help of a private college counseling firm, well, you keep believing that if it gives you the warm fuzzies. There are plenty of legacy students who don’t have great grades, who don’t have great scores, who aren’t all that interesting and thus need the help of a private college counselor. And, yes, it just might be your child. Think about the pressure these legacy students are under to live up to their parents’ expectations…they’ve got an advantage in the admissions process but will they capitalize on it? Legacy status, on its own, is — in almost every instance — not enough. And to these same critics, know that we take positions that both are and are not in our business interests. If these same critics believe (incorrectly) that the vast majority of our students tend to be Asian or Asian American, then why would we so vocally oppose Asian and Asian American discrimination in college admissions if we are alleged to benefit from such discrimination? …There are those crickets again. Chirp chirp.
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