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By All Means, Eliminate Legacy And Donor Admissions Preferences Because They Are Corrupting, Regardless of Racial Impact

By All Means, Eliminate Legacy And Donor Admissions Preferences Because They Are Corrupting, Regardless of Racial Impact

My position since long before the recent SCOTUS Affirmative Action decision: “I am against legacy admissions preferences regardless of whether they have a racial impact on admissions, because they contribute to a cronyism that shifts the focus from the individual’s merits to the school’s interest in developing alumni fundraising.”

In reaction to the Supreme Court ruling that race-based affirmative action violates the Equal Protection Clause, there has been a lot of what-about-ism.

The biggest what about is college legacy and donor preferential treatment, meaning applicants who have an alumni family connection or who were related to a major donor received preference. As if those preferences somehow excuse the illegal racial preferences that permeate higher education.

These preferences allegedly benefit whites over blacks.

The next big fight over college admissions already has taken hold, and it centers on a different kind of minority group that gets a boost: children of alumni.

In the wake of a Supreme Court decision that strikes down affirmative action in admissions, colleges are coming under renewed pressure to put an end to legacy preferences — the practice of favoring applicants with family ties to alumni. Long seen as a perk for the white and wealthy, opponents say it’s no longer defensible in a world with no counterbalance in affirmative action.

President Joe Biden suggested colleges should rethink the practice after the court’s ruling, saying legacy preferences “expand privilege instead of opportunity.” Several Democrats in Congress demanded an end to the policy in light of the court’s decision to remove race from the admissions process. So did Republicans including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is vying for the GOP presidential nomination.

That may be partially true, but it’s only part of the story. Lower and middle income white students also are disadvantaged because they receive zero preference: Not race, not legacy, not donor. The legacy and donor preference may benefit wealthy whites, but they also increasing benefit wealthy college-graduate blacks and other non-white groups.

So it’s a mixed bag, and a what-about-ism that really doesn’t even answer the question of whether racial preferences are unconstitutional.

But to the extent “eliminate legacy and donor preferences” is a dare, I accept it and agree. By all means eliminate the corrupting influence of legacy and donor admissions preferences.

I have held this position long before the recent SCOTUS decision. In an October and November 2022 email interview with ProPublica about our project, I was challenged in just such a fashion. In a portion that was not published by ProPublica but was published by me, I responded as follows to a written question from reporter Dan Golden:

Question 4) I wrote a book called “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges–And Who Gets Left Outside The Gates,” which is sometimes taught in college classes. It documents that very rich families often donate large sums to selective universities, which then admit their under-achieving children under the rubric of “legacy preference” (if the parents are alumni) or “development preference” (if they aren’t).

My book examines these admissions preferences primarily as an issue of wealth and social class. But because the vast majority of the donor families are white, some academics would regard the preferences as an example of systemic or structural racism–i.e., they institutionalize admission of white students with weak grades and test scores. Do you disagree with this characterization, and if so, what would your counterargument be? Should teaching of this race-based interpretation of legacy and development preference be discouraged or banned in college classes?

Answer (emphasis added): I have not read your book, and don’t have time now, so I can’t comment on your theories and findings. I am against legacy admissions preferences regardless of whether they have a racial impact on admissions, because they contribute to a cronyism that shifts the focus from the individual’s merits to the school’s interest in developing alumni fundraising. I’d like to see all identity-group admissions preferences eliminated to level the playing field and to increase the focus on the intrinsic merit of each applicant without regard to group identity.

That goes double for admissions preferences for large donors.

All these colleges and universities crying over the SCOTUS decision need to put their money where their virtue-signaling mouths are. Eliminate legacy and donor admissions preferences.

There you go. Let’s do it.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Let’s not forget to eliminate any influence on admissions b/c of family ties to faculty or administrative staff while we’re at it. Cut off all the non merit based thumbs on the scales of admissions decisions.

    alaskabob in reply to CommoChief. | July 2, 2023 at 10:01 pm

    As a teaching assistant in Chemistry at the university, I found myself having to protect the class from one student trying the blow up the place… not intentionally. His mother was a professor at a medical school and from what I could gather, his acceptance was all but guaranteed IF he survived his chemistry experience and the rest of his 4 years in college.

    The school, which will remain nameless, had rather interesting bias in admissions. From our department, an applicant had been told by that same school to take a hike and never apply again. Well, he didn’t because the next week he interviewed at Duke and Duke called back that following week with an acceptance to their medical school. There is more to that story but would further paint said lesser tier med school in even darker colors…. a tradition that echos even to this day.

      The_Mew_Cat in reply to alaskabob. | July 3, 2023 at 5:13 pm

      I was a grad student at Duke back in the 80s, and I remember an incident where some pre-meds were caught picking the lock on the organic prof’s office door at 3AM before the final exam. That is how cutthroat it is to get into medical school.

    JohnSmith100 in reply to CommoChief. | July 2, 2023 at 10:23 pm

    I like this, would it have sidelined Joe Biden, we know he was not very bright, In the same vein, stop admission of dumb jocks, they should have to meet academic standards.

      The_Mew_Cat in reply to JohnSmith100. | July 3, 2023 at 5:04 pm

      Dumb Jocks are only admitted if they can play revenue sports in the top league. Remember, it is all about the money. Scholarships for non-revenue sports, as in all women’s sports, only exist because those women are being paid to service the men in revenue sports.

    MosesZD in reply to CommoChief. | July 3, 2023 at 7:42 pm

    At Harvard the average legacy student admitted has a 2296 SAT. The average non-Legacy student has a 2237 SAT.

    In ethnic groups only Indians (2316) and Asians (2304) have higher average SATs than the legacy student group which, itself, is multi-racial.

    The legacy issue is a lie put out by the affirmative action people to justify their discrimination. The game is ‘you discriminate by bringing in lesser-qualified whites, therefore we’re justified in bringing in our lesser qualified students.’

TheOldZombie | July 2, 2023 at 9:19 pm

The court will never rule on legacy admissions because there is nothing unconstitutional about it.

If the whiners in Congress really wanted to do away with legacy admissions though they could simply pass a law that states that any college that accepts any Federal money must not have a legacy system.

But they’d rather whine about it for political points.

    chrisboltssr in reply to TheOldZombie. | July 3, 2023 at 9:20 am

    Exactly, and they all know it. In fact, if they did they’d have to also narrow that ruling because legacy admissions could also have a negative impact on businesses too.

    The_Mew_Cat in reply to TheOldZombie. | July 3, 2023 at 10:16 am

    Congress could outlaw all non-merit admissions if it wanted to.
    But this would hurt the big name universities financially.

      chrisboltssr in reply to The_Mew_Cat. | July 3, 2023 at 12:33 pm

      I don’t think they could because that would be a blatant violation of the freedom of association clause of the 1st Amendment.

        TheOldZombie in reply to chrisboltssr. | July 3, 2023 at 4:54 pm

        They don’t have to outlaw it. They just have to say that as a condition of receiving Federal monies you can’t have legacy admissions.

        The feds do this all the time. They put restrictions on the fed money that in order to get said money you have to follow their rules.

          The_Mew_Cat in reply to TheOldZombie. | July 3, 2023 at 4:58 pm

          Congress can do a lot of things. But they won’t because members of Congress benefit from legacy admissions.

Legacy admissions are likely to be able to do the work and preserve a kind of tradition, some continuity.

    Antifundamentalist in reply to rhhardin. | July 2, 2023 at 9:51 pm

    Given what’s going on in Universities these days, I’d say it’s a good idea to get rid of some tradition and continuity. That’s part of what got us here to begin with.

PrincetonAl | July 2, 2023 at 10:12 pm

Most of the Ivy League has already eliminated the legacy preference so that’s a red herring.

As far as donors buying preferential admission for their family – well, the Democrats can pretend like it is egalitarian virtue on their part to get rid of that …

… but in fact that is entirely how they operate every single institution they corrupt.

As a shakedown operation.

From garbage collection in Chicago to the FBI and DoJ. It’s all for sale.

So yeah by all means I agree with the Perfessor …. And watch them hypocritically backpedal in response. They will find loopholes anyway it’s what they do.

“Oh that $10 million donation that happened one week AFTER they were enrolled was unconnected to their admission, we had no idea that would happen”

“Oh that legacy student got in on merit despite their 1020 SAT, being the daughter of Sotomayer had nothing to do with it”

    Bruce Hayden in reply to PrincetonAl. | July 3, 2023 at 8:00 am

    Very much agree. As the next poster points out, the purpose of elite universities is networking. The people you want to get to know are the kids of the very rich and of powerful politicians (best chances at getting into Harvard are if you have a parent who is a Senator or powerful House members). How did Hunter Biden get into Harvard?

    The problem with legacy admits, per se, is that a lot of private schools have integrated fund raising with admissions. Maybe 15 years ago, when my daughter was getting ready to apply to college, a good friend pointed out to me what it would take for her to get a legacy admission to my alma Mater $X a year on my part in donations for 18 years, or the equivalent. This effectively doubled the per year cost of tuition. She decided to look elsewhere, and was extremely satisfied with her choice. As that friend is fond of saying: “Follow the money”.

    Eagle1 in reply to PrincetonAl. | July 3, 2023 at 10:07 am

    The common denominator of the legacy admits that I do know, is that they came from the top end of earners and donors. The two Yale parents I knew who worked upped middle class jobs, daughter didn’t get in despite excellent grades, and all the other checked boxes.

If you eliminate the legacy and wealth factors, then you also eliminate the purpose of those types of schools. Nobody goes there for the education, but to be part of the club.

Juris Doctor | July 2, 2023 at 11:27 pm

Democrats: Affirmative action does not mean inferior candidates.

Also Democrats: Clarence Thomas was an inferior candidate and only got there because of affrimative action.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair | July 3, 2023 at 12:13 am

I have no problem, whatsoever, with legacy and donor admissions. To put them in the same category as affirmative action is really a stretch.

First of all, colleges are businesses. Donors pay for the business, so they are certainly entitled to a couple of slots when they are actually paying for hundreds, if not thousands, of slots for others.

And legacy admissions are in keeping with society’s concept of membership and fairness. Colleges are not just nameless buildings that kids run through for four years and then completely forget about. Colleges are about “membership” in the grandest fashion, and there is nothing wrong with extending advantages to legacies. If it hurts the college then that is the college’s problem, but colleges are in the business of building up donor bases (which they certainly should be doing rather than relying on a tsunami of stupid cash from the federal government and the states) and legacy admissions are a legitimate part of that. It’s not the individual legacy admission they are looking at, but the whole family’s commitment to the school

    IMHO: y’ got it in one!
    a point to remember: just because a legacy matriculates doesn’t mean he graduates.
    next: y’ want something badly enough n’ yer willin’ to bust yer a$$ n’ deprive yerself of wine, wimmen, n’ song for four years …
    BTW: the Libe Tower, even after 60 years, still sets my heart athumpin’

    Not just the colleges themselves, but the frats too. They are all about membership and connections within an elite club.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair | July 3, 2023 at 12:20 am

Once again, though, the issue with higher education is very simple and straightforward:


If a university wants to accept a student then either that student can pay or that student can find a regular private loan or that university can give the student a scholarship or guarantee a loan. But federal money to pay for the students’ tuition and books and expenses has to stop. Dead.

Until the federal money comes completely out of this the schools will never reform and the prices will continue to outpace inflation by orders of magnitude.

BTW, let us not forget that there is so much money in the college loan business that BarkyCare took over the whole industry in order to have extra BS money to claim that BarkyCare was revenue neutral (LOL). It used to be that the federal government only gave loan guarantees to students but BarkyCare made the feds take over the whole friggin business – originating and holding the loans.

    Don’t know what BarkyCare is, but pretty much agree with the rest of your thesis.

    The dramatic rise in tuition can be tracked to the rise in the limits that the student loan lenders will provide, much like the cost of EVs increase every time the Federal Government decides to increase rebates.

    In no way would private student loan lenders suddenly ‘waive’ $500 billion in loans, like our POTUS has tried, failed, yet continues to try to do. Take it out of the hands of the government.



drsamherman | July 3, 2023 at 8:24 am

Depends Joe’s anti-legacy admissions stance sure didn’t stop him from lifting the phone and calling UPenn’s President to make sure his granddaughter was admitted to the school. “Dear Leader” hypocrisy and apparatchik privilege at its worst—the Biden crime family.

chrisboltssr | July 3, 2023 at 9:17 am

There’s nothing wrong with legacy admissions and there’s nothing wrong with nepotism. Stop engaging in the Left’s nonsense because they want to justify their continued use of systemic racism and affirmative action.

Also, be careful what you wish for. Legacy and nepotism are synonymous. Most of you business owners created it for the purpose of passing it on to your heirs. That is legacy. Your guys really need to start thinking about these spots you are opening when you are dealing with these evil Leftists.

E Howard Hunt | July 3, 2023 at 11:58 am

If a man donates $10 million to a school and has a son, who although not quite up to snuff, is well-behaved, hard working, capable of getting through the coursework and of being graduated, then he damn well should be accepted. Too many sanctimonious perfectionists are ruining the world by insisting that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Get real.

    CommoChief in reply to E Howard Hunt. | July 4, 2023 at 11:11 am

    No issues from me with a few caveats
    1. Must be a private Univ
    2. No public funding for Univ in any form
    3. Faculty ineligible for govt contracts or service while a part of the Univ
    4. Students ineligible for any taxpayer support for funding their education at this institution

    If a completely private university wishes to implement admissions policies of their own choosing v comply they can do so. They should have do it openly and without all the pussyfooting around. Let them perpetuate the lifetime ‘golden ticket’ CV caste system that admission to an Ivy has become…as.long as they admit what they are doing and fund it themselves.

Don’t forget the Lori Loughlin’s of the world, who will take every step needed, in her case and many others illegal activity, in order to get the kids into the most desired schools.

We should keep legacy and donor preferences–they are nothing more than loyal customer/supporter appreciation programs the same as we have in all kinds of businesses from fast food restaurants to luxury private jet sales.

What we need to do away with is the ‘admissions’ process.

It should be first come, first served, cash in hand.

No essays, no list of accomplishments. Just a high school diploma and enough to pay for a degree program.

Capitalist-Dad | July 7, 2023 at 10:08 am

So no stats? Just disgust for the concept of legacies? In a recent column, Ann Coulter cites a number of studies (2007 Princeton-25 “selective colleges,” 2009 Harvard-30 “selective colleges”) that concluded a majority of legacy admissions had SATs slightly higher than the university’s average admission standards. She concludes, “Apparently, the dumb kids of alumni don’t bother applying to their parents’ schools.” The unearned admissions appear to be associated with children of big donors (slightly below average SATs), athletes, and blacks/Hispanics (the two latter well below average acceptance scores). Looks like some additional data is needed before simply jumping on the “no legacies” band wagon.