Why elite colleges won’t give up their legacy admissions

Elite colleges and universities say they want to diversify their student bodies, and yet they continue to favour white students with certain credentials and fail to keep up with the changing demographics. One reason: children of alumni, writes Jill Barshay for The Hechinger Report.

Known as legacy students, these students are up to eight times more likely to be accepted at elite colleges, according to one estimate. In the affirmative action cases currently before the Supreme Court, rarely seen admissions data has been made public and it shows that children of Harvard alumni were accepted at a rate of 33.6% in the classes of 2014-19, compared with 5.9% for non-legacies, according to a 2021 report in the Boston Globe.

To find out why elite colleges love legacies, two business school professors were granted access to 16 years of admissions data at one elite North-eastern college. The upshot: it’s in this school’s clear self-interest to take them. Alumni children who received offers matriculated at much higher rates, giving the school more certainty in their future enrolment numbers. And these loyal families with multi-generational ties to the college were far more likely to donate funds, money that the school needs, in part, to offer scholarships to others.
Full report on The Hechinger Report site