November 8, 2023

Indiana Senator Todd Young wants to end legacy college admissions

asilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame, in Notre Dame, north of South Bend. - (Photo courtesy Notre Dame)

asilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame, in Notre Dame, north of South Bend.

(Photo courtesy Notre Dame)

A new federal bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) would restrict American colleges and universities from giving admission priority to prospective students who are related to alumni or donors.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), would amend the Higher Education Act to prevent accredited private and public universities from using legacy admission. That’s important because colleges must be accredited for students to receive federal financial aid

The practice of giving relatives of alumni an edge in admission is common at elite schools. College administrators say it helps encourage alumni to give money and that legacy students are more likely to accept admission offers. But the practice generally favors White students and those from rich families. 

“Legacy admissions restrict opportunities for many bright and talented young Americans and provide unmerited advantage to the most connected individuals in our society,” Young said in a press release. “Our bill will end legacy preferences in the admissions process and promote upward mobility for Americans of all backgrounds.”

In Indiana, several private schools — such as the University of Notre Dame, DePauw University and Wabash College — favor applicants with relatives who are alumni. But neither Purdue University in West Lafayette nor Indiana University in Bloomington use it as a factor in admission. 

A Washington Post analysis from July found that more than 100 prominent U.S. colleges and universities use alumni relationships as a factor in admission decisions.

Legacy admission has faced mounting criticism following the U.S. Supreme Court that ended race-based affirmative action in June. The U.S. Education Department announced in July that it had opened an investigation into whether Harvard’s use of legacy admission is racially discriminatory

Contact WFYI education reporter Dylan Peers McCoy at dmccoy@wfyi.org.

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