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Survey: Nearly 80 Percent of College Students Want Legacy Admissions Banned

Jul. 20, 2021

New York, NY (July 20, 2021) ⁠— Being the child of an alumnus should not give a college applicant an admissions edge, according to results of a new Student Voice survey, conducted by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse and presented by Kaplan*. Of the more than 2,000 college students polled, 79 percent support (54 percent “strongly”; 25 percent “somewhat”) the end of legacy admissions. The call to egalitarianism comes in the aftermath of the Varsity Blues scandal and, more recently, the move by the state of Colorado banning legacy admissions for all state colleges and universities.

According to research, legacy students constitute a significant share of students among the most competitive (mostly private) colleges and universities across the country. Harvard’s next graduating class is more than one-third legacy, for example. But as many Ivy Leagues stand by their legacy traditions, other top schools are beginning to cast them aside, including most prominently Johns Hopkins University. The University of California system, the nation’s largest public university system, has not considered legacy in its admissions process since the 1990s. At some top private schools, where legacy is much more prevalent than at public schools, some students have been petitioning their administrations to end the practice. Additionally, this fall, a group of alumni and current students from some top colleges and universities plan to start a national campaign to discourage graduates from giving to their alma maters until legacy admissions at their school is ended.

While many who call for the ending of legacy admissions see it as an issue of fairness—it has its roots in the 1920s as a way to keep out Jews, immigrants, and non-white students—others point to its modern-day benefits, saying that admitting the children of alumni can boost scholarship giving by wealthier families. The CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, himself a former admissions chief at a private college, suggests that ending legacy admissions would harm colleges’ ability to enroll low-income students.

“Many college students view legacy admissions as an issue of social justice, and they see it as giving an unfair advantage to applicants who already have a lot going for them,” said Brian Carlidge, vice president of pre-college programs, Kaplan. “It’s important to note, however, that while legacy may put the thumb on the scale for some applicants, most colleges still focus on the traditional admissions factors like standardized test scores, GPA, letters of recommendation, and personal essays. How you do in those areas, regardless of who your parents are, will still largely determine where you get in. With so many calls for change in higher education, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more colleges sunsetting their legacy policies, with much of the energy for its demise coming from the grassroots.”

For more information, read Inside Higher Ed’s article, featuring additional results and analysis.

To schedule an interview about the survey results, contact Russell Schaffer at 917.822.8190 or russell.schaffer@kaplan.com.

*Based on the results of an e-survey conducted in June 2021 of 2,035 four-year college and community college students from across the United States.

About Kaplan

Kaplan is a global educational services company that provides individuals, universities, and businesses with a diverse array of services, including higher and professional education, test preparation, language training, corporate and leadership training, and student recruitment, online enablement and other university support services. With operations in nearly 30 countries, Kaplan serves nearly 1.1 million students each year and has partnerships with 2,000-plus universities, colleges, and schools/school districts, and more than 4,000 businesses globally. Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC). For more information, please visit www.kaplan.com.

Press contacts:

Russell Schaffer
Office: 917.822.8190
russell.schaffer@kaplan.com
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