Outlawing Legacy Admissions to Elite Universities Will Not Make Progressives Happy

Last week, the US Supreme Court declared using racial preferences in college admissions unconstitutional (BREAKING: Supreme Court Rejects Race-Based College Admissions). Once the wailing of college admissions officers staring at a future that involved serving fries to the same folks they had prevented from attending college ceased, the left began looking around for ways to punish White students in ways that didn’t involve outright racist practices. The target they chose was “legacy admissions.”

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Legacy admissions are students admitted to a university because a parent, or sometimes a grandparent, attended the school.

Two things immediately emerged from the scrum. First, and most bizarrely, some social media commentary insisted that conservatives were big supporters of legacy admissions. I’m guessing this is because the Supreme Court didn’t address the issue, and the majority in the decision is conservative; therefore, conservatives must favor legacy admissions. Never mind that legacy admissions was not a matter before the Court, so no matter the Court’s feelings, they had no authority to render an opinion on that subject. The reasoning may be deeper, but I think you would be hard-pressed to find any number of conservatives who believe that kids should ride on their parents’ coattails or, in this case, draft in their slipstream.

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exemplified the second bit of stupidity. She parrots the assertion that legacy admissions give an unfair advantage to White applicants. The insinuation is that legacy admissions keep out better-qualified, non-White students.

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In the hazy world of college admissions, it’s unclear exactly which schools provide a legacy boost and how much it helps. In California, where state law requires schools to disclose the practice, USC reported that 14% of last year’s admitted students had family ties to alumni or donors. Stanford reported a similar rate.

At Harvard, which released years of records as part of the lawsuit that ended up before the Supreme Court, legacy students were eight times more likely to be admitted, and nearly 70% were white, researchers found.

An Associated Press survey of the nation’s most selective colleges last year found that legacy students in the freshman class ranged from 4% to 23%. At four schools — Notre Dame, USC, Cornell and Dartmouth — legacy students outnumbered Black students.

This is balderdash and nothing more that recycling a tired, old stereotype of the dumb offspring of Ivy League parents who makes his way through life by family connections.

The fact that 70 percent of Harvard’s legacy applicants are White does not imply they are unqualified.

A 2009 Harvard study found that legacy applicants to the top 30 most selective colleges had a mean score 10 points higher on the reading SAT than non-legacy applicants and six points higher on the math SAT.

About a decade later, Naviance, a college software provider, examined 15,402 legacy applications from 2014-17 and found that 82% of legacy applicants have SAT or ACT scores at or above their colleges’ average for accepted students.

Comparing three preferences given to college applicants — legacies, athletes and blacks/Hispanics — the children of alumni got the smallest boost, according to a 2007 Princeton study of 4,000 students entering 28 selective colleges in 1999. A majority of legacy admissions had SATs above their college’s average. Even those below the average were only slightly below it, 47 points out of a possible 1,600.

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As we know from the case the Supreme Court heard, without racial preferences that give Harvard a student body that is 43 percent white, 19 percent Asian, 11 percent black, and 10 percent Hispanic, it would be 43 percent Asian, 38 percent white, 0.7 percent black, and 2.4 percent Hispanic.

On a strictly merit-based admission system, the legacy admissions kids will more than likely be admitted because they are generally high-performing students. If legacy admissions are banned, the bill-payer for this will be economically disadvantaged White kids.

I’m all in favor of eliminating legacy admissions. I just don’t think it is a legal issue because the data show that legacy students would be admitted anyway. But if everyone really feels that this has to be done because a racist admissions system was thrown out, just have the self-awareness not to be shocked at the result.

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