Universities Still Give Preferential Admissions Status to the Children of Alums

Barry Lenson

Universities Still Give Preferential Admissions Status to the Children of Alums

Preferential Admissions to the Children of Alums  “Affirmative action for the rich” hasn’t gone away, according to Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who writes on education for The New York Times. In a withering blog post, he has the courage to attack colleges’ longstanding tradition of giving special admissions consideration to “legacy applicants” who are the children of alumni. (In other words, if Mommy or Daddy went to Harvard, you are going to enjoy a competitive edge if you apply.)

“Rewarding birth rather than merit is un-American and possibly illegal,” Kahlenberg correctly observes. Here are some other points that he makes in his blog, which we urge you to read . . .

  • People have been complaining for years about affirmative action admissions for students of color. But there has been no objection to giving preference to the children of well-to-do alumni. Children of alumni enjoy an advantage that is the equivalent of a 160-point boost in the math and verbal SAT scores. Colleges say they admit legacy applicants to increase donations from alumni. Yet according to Kahlenberg, at least one study shows that admitting alumni children has little impact on the level of overall alumni giving.

Kahlenberg is right. But right or not, we fear that the age-old practice of giving preferential treatment to legacy applicants is not about to go away. Other tweedy old college traditions have died, like wearing freshman beanies and swallowing goldfish. But for some reason, giving an edge to the children of alumni is a tradition that will take a long time to end.


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