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Debate: Legacy admissions

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Should legacy admissions systems be banned?

Background and context

Legacy admissions systems have existed for very long time. For the past 30 years Americans have argued that getting into a college was based either in your good scores and academics or based on your family history. There are all sorts of unearned advantages, legacy admissions being one of the most common. Every year many students with low grades and less impressive resumes find a way to get in. The secret is that they have the right parents. Critics challenge them based on fairness, as it opposes the human rights and constitutional values. However, from a legal aspect, there have been few challenges. In the 1980s, the US Education Department ruled that legacy admissions systems do not discriminate against Asian American applicants, as their children will benefit as much as the children of white alumni from this advantage over time. Nonetheless, the debate is still going on. On one hand, the system is considered unfair and discriminatory, but on the other hand, supporters say that it helps to build cross-generational relationships with institutions.



Contents

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Main arguments

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Pro

  • Admissions procedures should be objective.George W. Bush: "I think colleges ought to use merit in order for people to get in".
  • Legacy preferences are illegal. The primary point of the 1866 Civil Rights Act was that all citizens have the same rights and that heredity does not convey rights in the United States. The law was passed with the goal of preventing Southern aristocrats from exercising their traditional control over their local areas. There are numerous cases in which federal courts -- sometimes citing the 1866 law -- have rejected any discrimination based on ancestry or parentage.[1]




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Con

  • Legacy system is a form of affirmative action. "The curse of nepotism." The Economist. January 8, 2004. Affirmative action for minorities is a policy far more acceptable than affirmative action for the rich, but rests on the same belief that people should be judged on something other than their individual abilities. If the Supreme Court had ruled against affirmative action earlier this year, the legacy system would have been next in the firing line; but in reprieving affirmative action, the court also reprieved the legacy system.
  • Legacy admissions are essential to the prestige of the university. Colleges say that legacy preferences help build cross-generational relationships with institutions and cement relationships with alumni donors. [2]



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Donations: Does the system have any economic advantages?

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Pro

  • The legacy system encourages families to donate money. Having students enrolled due to legacy, pushes families to give money to the universities.




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Con

  • Legacy preferences do not increase universities' revenues. The universities justify it saying that they result in increased alumni donations, which is not legally cognizable. An analysis of extensive data from more than 100 elite universities suggests that in fact there is no correlation between legacy preferences and increased university revenues.[3]
  • Legacy preferences do not influence the universities' fund raising.By analyzing fund raising rates at colleges with and without legacy admissions, there has been concluded that there has been no diminished giving at colleges that dropped legacy admissions.[4]




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Pro/Con Resources

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See also

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