New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker introduced the Fair College Admissions Act on March 9, 2022. It seeks to eliminate use of the legacy preference and binding early decision in admissions at public and private New York colleges and universities. The sponsors argue both policies undermine diversity and opportunity in and through higher education.
More than 50 colleges in New York state provide a legacy preference in their admissions process and more than 30 New York colleges administer binding early admission plans. These practices tend to favor students who already have many advantages in the admissions process and harm underrepresented minority, low- and middle-income, and first generation students. They are particularly common at New York’s most prestigious and selective private colleges.
These institutions have large endowments, often worth more than a billion dollars. They also charge high tuition and fees, which is why their contributions to a non-compliance penalty assessed by the Fair College Admissions Act on colleges that choose to maintain a legacy preference or early decision plan is substantial. The penalty amounts to 10 percent of the previous year’s freshman class enrollment multiplied by the published tuition and fees. The bill directs revenue collected through this fee to the New York Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
The table below reveals the level of commitment several highly selective private colleges and universities in New York make to equitable admissions practices, their wealth, and the potential size of the penalty they would pay for refusing to drop the legacy preference and early decision.
All data are for the most recent year available. Binding early admission (i.e. early decision), Black, and Hispanic student enrollment percentages drawn from an analysis of the most recent Common Data Set published on each institution’s website. The Common Data Set also identifies whether an institution considers an applicant’s relation to alumni in its admissions process. Pell Grant student enrollment percentages are drawn from an analysis of the most recent IPEDS data. Endowment totals are from the 2021 NACUBO analysis and, in the case of Cornell University, reporting by the Cornell Daily Sun. An earlier version contained an error in the potential noncompliance penalty for NYU. It has now been corrected.
*Columbia University: Unlike most selective universities, including every Ivy League college, Columbia University does not publish its Common Data Set. The early decision percentage is taken from 2016. The share of students who identify as Black or as Hispanic is from the Class Profile for the Class of 2025.