Everybody knows how ridiculously hard it is to claw your way into an elite school like Harvard, Princeton or Notre Dame. Every year though plenty of students who possess lower grades and less impressive resumes find a way to game the system.
What’s their secret? They’ve got the right parents.
Schools hate to talk about the students who saunter through the educational pearly gates because mom, dad or maybe grandpa graduated from Harvard. When ABC News requested legacy admission statistics earlier this year from several selective schools across the country, Columbia, Georgetown and Stanford were among the schools refusing to share the numbers.
The admission rates at selective schools, which were perhaps less embarrassed by their legacy biases when ABC News called, illustrate just how slanted the process.
The latest Princeton legacy admission rate was 40% compared to 13.1% of all applicants. The Middlebury College legacy rate was 48% versus 18% for all applicants.
In a recent USA Today op ed piece, Michael Dannenburg, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, blasted the legacy practice that’s primarily found at exclusive schools. One of the universities that he singled out was Notre Dame. At this Catholic school, one in four students receive legacy preference, which represents more students than all the African Americans and Latino students combined.
Schools like Harvard whine that they need legacy students because it encourages those families to donate the big bucks. With a $35 billion endowment that exceeds the gross national product of many countries, it takes a lot of audacity for Harvard to make that argument. The Harvard legacy admission rate, by the way, is about 40%.
Do the legacies deserve this special treatment? I think you already know the answer to that.
The federal Department of Education concluded that legacies on average are “significantly less qualified” than their peers. A 2008 study of Duke admission practices concluded that the school’s legacy students were less accomplished as high school students and lagged in their grades during their first college year. These Duke legacy students were less likely to major in engineering or express an interest in becoming a doctor.
I agree with Dannenberg who made this argument:
The legacy preference doesn’t reward achievement, doesn’t promote diversity and isn’t fair. It should be banned. The last thing colleges and universities should be doing is extending an extra helping hand to those already advantaged by birth.