Why legacy should be abolished in college admissions

By: Saya Alvares and Bridie Beamish

People and Nat/World Editor

In light of the recent abolition of affirmative action across the nation, legacy admissions perpetuate an immoral regime embedded within the American university system. Legacy admission refers to the favored acceptance of applicants who have familial relationships with alumni from the institution. This system contributes to the discriminatory culture found within society while simultaneously perpetuating a society built off of the success of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Simultaneously, it contributes to the systemic racism that remains a part of American society. 

The Supreme Court just cracked down on discrimination with regards to race, so why should it be any different with income discrimination? As a legacy Harvard student said in a New York Times interview, “Legacy is essentially Affirmative Action for the rich.” While legacy may seem to be just another trait for universities to consider, the systematic background proves it to be significantly more. Legacy students are overwhelmingly White, who’s parents, grandparents, and other generations did not have to face racial discrimination for everyday activities such as using the restroom, working, and eating at restaurants.   

While the current and exact number of colleges that use legacy admissions is unknown, a 2018 study by Inside Higher Ed revealed that 42 percent of private universities, including some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, as well as six percent of public colleges used legacy status in their admissions process. Colleges claim to use this system as a way to foster an intergenerational community and to increase their donations, which they allege goes towards providing financial aid for students. However, prioritizing legacy families reduces the diversity on campus by cultivating a community filled with students from similar backgrounds with high incomes. It takes away from those who worked just as hard, but unfortunately do not have the connections that the wealthy do. If you have parents that attended university, they were able to afford the cost of that tuition, promoting systemic wealthy connections into these schools. Currently, the total Harvard yearly tuition sits at 79,450 dollars while the average US median salary is 59,428 dollars. 

In June 2023, the US Department of Education began a civil rights investigation into whether Harvard University violates the Civil Rights Act with regards to legacy. Given that desegregation of higher education did not occur until the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, my Indian grandparents would not have been able to attend. This eliminates the opportunity for my parents to be considered for legacy as their parents weren’t allowed to attend the school. Legacy isn’t simply a stroke of luck; it’s a byproduct of the White privilege that supports keeping the schools in a bloodline. This bloodline is only applicable to White students whose ancestors had the chance to attend the school. This leaves every other race in America, nearly half the population of the US, ineligible for consideration of legacy as their ancestors couldn’t attend these schools. This is why legacy needs to be abolished in higher education, to prohibit students from gaining an advantage from something they can’t control. 

Now, we are not saying that legacy students do not work hard. Obviously, to get into the top universities one must still have a high standard of intelligence and dedication. However, the issue arises when universities compare students with similar applications and prioritize one because of their wealth status and ability to provide the school with more donations. Ultimately, with legacy admissions, the rich continue to prosper while the less fortunate fall through the cracks. 

(Sources: Forbes, NY Times, USA Today)

Categories: Opinion

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