20+ Education & Civil Rights Orgs Urge Colleges to End Legacy Preference in Admission

Higher-Ed Quality & Affordability

December 15, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 15, 2021) —In a letter released today, Education Reform Now and 21 education and civil rights organizations and thought-leaders call on college presidents and boards of trustees to end the unfair and discriminatory legacy preference practice in their respective institution’s admissions practices.

The “legacy preference” provides an advantage in the college admissions process for prospective students who claim a family member among an institution’s alumni—particularly at highly selective colleges and universities. The value of the preference is equivalent to 160 extra points on the SAT. At top 30 universities, legacy students have a 45% greater chance of being admitted than non-legacy students and fill between 10% and 25% of all available slots.

In the letter, the groups note that: “to this day, the legacy preference continues to favor wealthy, white families that have lived in America for generations and benefited from past racial segregation and discriminatory policies. A 2018 lawsuit against Harvard revealed that 77% of legacy admits were white, while just 5% were Black and 9% were Hispanic/Latinx.”

The groups urge college presidents and boards of trustees to end the practice of legacy admissions on their own and remove additional admissions barriers for students from low-income backgrounds, minority students, and first-generation college students who already must overcome systemic obstacles in their education on the path to higher ed.

“The legacy preference extends privilege to the already privileged. College leaders should see that keeping it is not worth the moral compromise. Instead of clinging to the legacy preference, college leaders should be focused on extending opportunity to deserving students regardless of their family’s income or alma mater,” said Michael Dannenberg, Education Reform Now’s Vice President for Higher Education Policy.

The groups’ letter was spearheaded by Education Reform Now, and is co-signed by 18 education and civil rights organizations, including the Center for American Progress, Education Trust, New America, The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), and UnidosUS.

You can view the full letter and list of signatories here.
Please note the release and letter will be updated in real time as additional signatories are added.