Bipartisan Senate Pair Wants To Eliminate Legacy College Admissions

  • Legacy admissions to universities are under the microscope.
  • Some are arguing that legacy admissions put poor, unconnected kids at a disadvantage.
  • About half of the schools in the country weigh legacy status when reviewing an application. 
  • Two senators want to prohibit universities from considering legacy status. 

( – In June, the Supreme Court ruled against colleges and universities using affirmative action during their admissions process. The ruling brought up questions about whether schools should be allowed to keep admitting legacy students. A bipartisan duo of senators wants to outlaw the practice.

What Is Legacy Admission?

Legacy admissions are also known by alumni connections or legacy preferences, depending on the university. It refers to a prospective student whose odds of being admitted to a particular school were boosted because they are related to an alumnus, like a grandparent or parent.

Julie Park, an associate professor of education at the University of Maryland, told US News that being a legacy student is “like getting the Disney FastPass to go to the front of the line.” She explained that like someone with the FastPass, they paid like all the other students and also have good credentials but they have “something that gives [them] an extra boost.”

Experts agree that when the legacy student’s parents have donated a substantial amount of money or they are a public figure, they get an even bigger boost.


In November, Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Merit-Based Educational Reforms and Institutional Transparency (MERIT) Act. The legislation would prohibit accredited colleges and universities from giving preferential treatment to prospective students who have a relationship with a donor or alumni.

The Hill reported that Senator Young issued a statement saying the US “is a land of opportunity, not a land of aristocracy.” He said that legacy admissions make it harder for many young people who are smart while giving preferential treatment to those who are well-connected.

Kaine said the bipartisan bill would “bring more fairness to the higher education admissions process” and ensure that kids whose families don’t have money or didn’t go to college aren’t missing an opportunity.

According to reports, approximately half of US universities and colleges offered legacy preference in 2020. Among the top 64 schools in the country, legacy students were three times more likely to be accepted. Eighty percent (80%) of those top schools weigh legacy status when they are trying to determine who gets a spot.

Richard Reeves, formerly with the Brookings Institution, said that the top universities in the country are in the business of picking the country’s elite.

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