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New York State Debates Ending Legacy Admissions

New York lawmakers are considering a new bill that would ban legacy and early-decision admission at public and private colleges in the state.

The state bill would not only ban the practice of legacy admissions, but also fine violating colleges 10 percent of tuition and fee revenue paid by enrolled freshmen the prior year, Inside Higher Ed reports. Those funds would be reallocated to low-income students through financial aid and scholarships.

Supporters of the bill say private colleges are blocking access to higher education through legacy admission practices.

“Legacy admissions give an unfair advantage to students with relatives who are alumni of a given school,” Assembly Member Latrice Walker, co-sponsor of the bill, says. “By contrast, low-income students and members of historically underrepresented communities are far less likely to have relatives who are college graduates. This preferential treatment must end. Similarly, low-income students are less likely to benefit from early admissions, because they need time to compare financial aid packages from different schools. We must end these structural barriers. This is about educational, economic and racial justice.”


Legacy admissions have been around in the US since the 1920’s. But some states are now starting to rethink the practice. Last year, Colorado became the first state to pass legislation banning legacy admissions in the state’s public colleges. Connecticut is debating a bill that would ban the practice at both public and private schools. On a wider scale, U.S. Congress is considering a bill, titled the Fair College Admissions Act, that would bar colleges with legacy admissions from accessing federal student aid.

“Getting into the college of your choice should be a matter of ability and hard work. It should not be based on one’s family connections or ability to accept an offer without knowing about financial aid options,” New York state senator Andrew Gounardes, sponsor of the Fair College Admissions Act, says.


In New York, private colleges are a primary opponent of the new state bill banning legacy admissions. The Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents more than 100 private colleges in New York, argues that prohibiting legacy admissions isn’t the right strategy for bringing more diversity to college campuses.

“New York’s private, not-for-profit colleges and universities have long-standing commitments to diversity and graduate 45 percent of the African American and Latinx college students in the state,” Lola W. Brabham, president of the commission, says. “There is more work to be done to ensure all students have access to higher education, but this proposal will not achieve that aim and represents an unreasonable intrusion into the admissions practices of private colleges. The Legislature can support the college dreams of students from underrepresented communities by supporting funding for proven student aid and opportunity programs.”

But Gounardes—the New York state senator who is a sponsor of the Fair College Admissions Act—says he’s confident the state legislation will pass this year. If it does, many private colleges may have to rethink their funding strategies.

“If you’re going to benefit from state support, state funding, grants, then you have to have admissions policies that are inclusive, not exclusive,” Gounardes says.

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, New York Daily News

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