Twenty education groups are today issuing an open letter to college presidents and boards urging them to abandon legacy admissions, which remains popular among private colleges and some public institutions.
“As Jerome Karabel details in his book, The Chosen, legacy preferences arose at elite institutions in the 1920s and 1930s as a way to limit the enrollment of Jewish immigrants whose qualifications outstripped those from long-standing well-to-do families that Ivy League colleges preferred to see on campus,” the letter says. “To this day, the legacy preference continues to favor wealthy, white families that have lived in America for generations and benefited from past racial segregation and discriminatory policies. A 2018 lawsuit against Harvard revealed that 77 percent of legacy admits were white, while just 5 percent were Black and 9 percent were Hispanic/Latinx. At the University of Notre Dame, there were five times as many legacies in Class of 2024 as there were Black students.”
In terms of fundraising, the letter does not expect much impact at all. “With regard to fundraising, in 2010, Chad Coffman, Tara O’Neil, and Brian Starr investigated alumni giving at the top 100 national universities between 1998 to 2007 to gauge the value of a legacy preference policy. They found ‘no evidence that legacy-preference policies themselves exert an influence on giving behavior.’ Coffman and his team also examined giving at seven institutions that dropped legacy preferences during the period of the study. Again, they found ‘no short-term measurable reduction in alumni giving as a result of abolishing legacy preferences.’”