Do colleges consider legacy status in admissions? Here’s what the data says

The Supreme Court's dismantling of affirmative action earlier this year sent chills down the spines of higher education and K12 leaders alike over fears that students won't have equal access to college. New data from the U.S. Department of Education reveals just how widespread the practice was.

Since the dismantling of affirmative action in college admissions, various higher education institutions have faced scrutiny for considering legacies in their admissions policies. Now, we’re coming to find out that the practice was even more common than we thought.

As of fall 2022, nearly 600 colleges took into consideration whether or not an applicant’s immediate family or relatives attended the school to which they’re applying, new survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics suggests. Among the 1,900 federally funded colleges that claim to have a competitive admission process, 1,344 say that legacy preferences aren’t a factor. Keep in mind, though, that this data is self-disclosed.

This first-of-its-kind data is important for higher education institutions that are still working to adopt new admissions policies at a time when higher education leaders wrestle with strategies to ensure diverse student bodies, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asserted.

“Access to date on legacy applicants is essential for colleges and universities reevaluating their admissions practices and working to build diverse student bodies in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling on affirmative action earlier this year,” he said in a statement.

Legacy admissions’ impact on K12

Since the dismissal of affirmative action, the Education Department has offered strategies and solutions for K12 and higher education institutions alike, stressing the importance of leveraging partnerships and other strategies to ensure high school graduates have a considerable chance to pursue their preferred college, regardless of their background.

Earlier this school year, Cardona wrote that colleges and universities ought to partner with school districts in underserved communities and invest in the resources to ensure students are better prepared to apply to college.

“When individual states have banned affirmative action in the past, fewer students of color applied and fewer students were admitted,” said during a call with reporters in August. “We cannot afford that kind of backsliding on a national scale.”

The Education Department also published a Q&A document, which may answer any questions K12 and higher education leaders may have surrounding this new era of college admissions.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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