Legacy admissions stays within the highlight. However correct information on the topic is elusive.

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Boston College’s scholar newspaper final month reported seemingly contradictory statements from the administration concerning the selective non-public establishment’s use of legacy preferences in admissions.

Colin Riley, a college spokesperson, informed The Day by day Free Press and later confirmed in an electronic mail to Larger Ed Dive that it “by no means had a coverage” underneath which alumni’s youngsters take pleasure in an admissions benefit.

However on the identical time, he additionally informed the coed press the college hadn’t thought of legacy standing “in a number of years.”

Which is it? Did the college by no means, or ever, account for legacy affiliation?

Riley didn’t reply to a number of follow-up emails looking for readability on the establishment’s practices. And additional muddling the matter, Boston College reported in two at present posted, public-facing datasets that it does think about alumni connections. 

Transferring ahead, the college will point out in a type of databases, the yearly filed Widespread Knowledge Set, that it doesn’t think about alumni relationships, Riley stated. He didn’t say whether or not the college would change its reporting to the opposite information set, which the U.S. Division of Training maintains.

The confusion round legacy preferences is just not remoted to Boston College. Different faculties have publicly reported they think about alumni connections in making admissions choices — solely to later say they don’t.

Faculties might not outline the follow the identical both. Are solely the youngsters of alumni thought of legacy candidates? Or do their different family members — like a grandchild or a nephew — additionally acquire a bonus? 

A scarcity of constant information complicates analysis efforts, significantly at a time when criticism towards legacy admissions has intensified. 

Some policymakers, pundits and even school leaders have campaigned to finish the follow for the reason that U.S. Supreme Court docket struck down race-conscious admissions this summer time. They argue the ruling will additional push traditionally marginalized college students out of upper training and say legacy standing provides an unfair edge to rich and White candidates.

If legacy admissions is an issue necessitating a ban, then it’s one which nobody can totally wrap their heads round for the time being given the murky information.

An incomplete image

Legacy preferences have lengthy been veiled in secrecy. Even when a university experiences that it considers alumni ties, the general public usually doesn’t know to what extent. On the identical time, it is true that most faculties haven’t any want for legacy insurance policies, as they settle for a majority or all of their candidates.

Nonetheless, uncommon glimpses into legacy practices have captured public consideration. The Supreme Court docket case unearthed findings that Harvard College candidates with legacy ties have been almost six instances extra prone to safe admission than these and not using a household connection.

Researchers who studied admissions practices of top-ranked faculties like Harvard have recommended that ditching programs favoring the prosperous, together with legacy, would bolster socioeconomic range on campuses.

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard University.

A scholar enters Harvard College’s Workplace of Admissions and Monetary Assist in 2006. The Ivy League establishment has been criticized for the share of legacy college students it admits.

Glen Cooper through Getty Pictures


“It’s completely shameful that there are nonetheless faculties, particularly publics, which can be nonetheless offering this benefit,” stated James Murphy, a vocal legacy admissions critic and deputy director of upper training coverage at Training Reform Now, a progressive suppose tank. 

Murphy has scanned a whole lot of schools’ Widespread Knowledge Units, or CDS, in his analysis on the topic. It’s not a straightforward chunk of knowledge to parse. Every school has its personal profile, so there’s no aggregated CDS info on legacy preferences. 

A headshot of James Murphy

James Murphy, deputy director of upper training coverage at suppose tank Training Reform Now

Permission granted by James Murphy


Faculties additionally err on this reporting, Murphy stated. They could depart sections of the CDS clean or info on it would change yr to yr, he stated. 

Final yr, the College of Connecticut stated on its CDS that it considers alumni relationships in admissions, although a spokesperson on the time informed Larger Ed Dive that was merely a reporting mistake.

Widespread Knowledge Units can even lack context. Think about a case at New York College, a selective non-public nonprofit establishment.

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