The Talon

The Student News Site of Rockwood Summit High School

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The problem with legacy admissions

In The Talon’s September 2023 edition, our staff reported on a landmark Supreme Court case that irrevocably shifted the college admissions landscape. After a lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard University and University of North Carolina made it to their docket, the Court overruled their precedents and prohibited the use of race as an admission factor for universities. 

In Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion, he writes that affirmative action unconstitutionally asserts that “the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin.” Essentially, Roberts is saying that one’s lineage does not define them and should not define their admissions likelihood– unless, of course, it’s an Ivy League lineage. 

Legacy applicants, or applicants for a college where their family members are alumni, have always been given a leg up when it comes to admissions. According to the ACLU, 73 of the nation’s top 100 colleges take legacy admissions into account, and the advantages granted to these students are significant. Documents from Harvard admissions revealed that legacies made up about 30 percent  of each year’s admitted class while only making up around five percent of applicants. 

More discussions about legacy admissions have started after this summer’s SCOTUS ruling. If providing equal opportunity in education is such a crucial element of our democracy that affirmative action, a program used to increase racial diversity, must be banned, why are legacy admissions, a program founded on racism, allowed to exist? It is no secret that legacy admissions began to keep a growing immigrant population (namely, a Jewish immigrant population) out of elite institutions in the 1920s. Nearly 100 years later, the process continues to alienate the majority of applicants to top colleges, especially those who come from lower or middle class families. 

The issue has raised bipartisan outrage, with legislation such as the Fair College Admissions for Students Act and  the MERIT Act being introduced to Congress to ban the legacy preference. The Department of Education even launched an investigation into legacy admissions at Harvard; however, as college application season comes to an end for the class of 2024, little has been done on the legal front to combat the process’ negative effects. 

By allowing the use of legacy admissions while outlawing affirmative action, the Court upholds a hypocrisy that fails the students they are supposed to protect. If equal opportunity is truly something our government stands for, their stance against legacy admissions should be just as harsh as it was against affirmative action.


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About the Contributor
Mary Corkery, Editor-In-Chief
Class of 2025 Time on staff: 3 years Favorite newspaper memory: My first January stay late when our editor accidently stole a pizza Favorite song: "Bottle Rocket" by Briston Maroney and Manchester Orchestra

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