Admitting children of alumni at higher rates than candidates with no family ties to a university has long been a popular practice among elite, selective schools. Universities have argued that this practice helps them raise money from alumni. But, others like John C. Brittain a professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia School of Law say that:
…a preference policy based on ancestry seems hardly necessary in a meritocracy when so many more highly qualified candidates compete for fewer available slots in admissions. But of greater concern is the fact that the legacy policy passes on a privilege, and predominantly whites enjoy the benefits. Indeed, it hurts minority diversity on campus.John C. Brittain
Today, one of the most selective schools in the Northeast, Amherst College, announced that it will abandon this practice. Amherst stated unequivocally that “Going forward, legacy status will no longer factor into the College’s holistic admission process, creating greater opportunity for more applicants.”
Amherst joins a host of other schools like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University, among others, in doing away with legacy admissions programs. In addition, Amherst announced that it will roll out a new, expanded financial aid program which will focus on making the school affordable for lower and middle-income families.
In its announcement, Amherst stated that legacy students which it defines as children of alumni who are academically well-qualified have in the past represented approximately 11 percent of each class.
Amherst further stated that,
We want to create as much opportunity for as many academically talented young people as possible, regardless of financial background or legacy status. There should be no doubt that a world-class education is within reach for students from all income groups.
At Amherst, that includes a need-blind admission process that offers substantial loan-free scholarship support for the vast majority of families and a financial aid program that will expand the number of students and families who can afford an Amherst education. It will also help them, once admitted, take full advantage of their educational experience without financial pressure.
Amherst officials posit that with the new program, “80 percent of U.S. households would typically pay no tuition and half would pay no tuition, housing or meals.”
Matthew L. McGann, Amherst’s dean of admissions and financial aid stated that ending legacy preference would allow more students to experience an Amherst education and that the university hopes that by abandoning legacy admissions they
will see a further increase in both the diversity and excellence of our extraordinary applicant pool and, ultimately, in the enrolled student community on campus…Matthew L. McGann
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