Colleges Favor Income-Producing Applicants

Secret #8 Colleges Favor Income-Producing Applicants

For years, colleges and universities have been giving preferential treatment to athletes and to the children of alumni. But in the current economic crunch, this practice has become more critical, for several reasons:

  • Colleges rely more than ever before on athletic programs to raise money. The director of development for one college explains it this way, “Every year, a significant number of our biggest contributors determine their contributions based on whether we win our biggest basketball and football games. One alum literally calls me and says, ‘Based on yesterday’s loss, I am cutting my contribution in half.’” That’s crazy. But it does explain why colleges continue to recruit athletes – and to accept athletes whose grades and test scores may be significantly lower than those of other admitted students.
  • Colleges continue to give preferential treatment to “legacy” applicants (the children of alumni). The reason? Alumni give more when their kids get admitted. Statistics on this practice are hard to find, but some did appear in a 2008 ABC News article, “Top Colleges Mum on Legacy Admissions.” According to that article, Princeton University usually admits 40 percent of legacy applicants – about four times the admission rate for non-legacy applicants. And Middlebury College usually admits about 48 percent of legacy applicants, versus 18% percent for non-alumni children.

Colleges and universities continue to court applications from students of color, students whose parents did not attend college, and other under-served groups. But with the current economic problems, they also seem to be “following the money trail” and giving preferential consideration to athletes and legacy students whose presence can generate more income.

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