July 16, 2023
The “legacy” preference, as it is known, is drawing fire from the White House, Capitol Hill and ordinary Americans who see it as a hereditary and therefore unfair benefit that tends to help the wealthy and White more than the poor and applicants of color. President Biden, in lamenting the court ruling last month, singled out “legacy admissions” as a practice “that expand(s) privilege instead of opportunity.”
The preference has deep roots in higher education, especially at private colleges, and eliminating it is much easier said than done. A Washington Post analysis found more than 100 selective schools, including the entire Ivy League, have declared that alumni-applicant relationships are considered in admissions decisions.
Leaders of prestigious schools, who avow their dedication to social mobility, wince at the suggestion that they are biased toward privilege. Few are speaking out in defense of legacy preferences. At least some — perhaps many — are quietly weighing whether to give up a tool long used to cultivate ties with alumni.