It is time for colleges and universities to abolish their legacy admissions policies

Feb. 13, 2024

Applying to college is a stressful experience. Concerns about finding a college that is the right fit, completing the admission application, meeting the application deadline and developing a plan to pay for college can all be an extreme burden to students.

That is why it is especially discouraging that legacy admissions allow prospective students to gain an unfair advantage.

Legacy admissions occur when colleges and universities give children of alumni special consideration, boosting those applicants’ chances of being admitted.

This custom has been unethical from the start. According to the monthly magazine The Nation, legacy admissions originated to exclude Jewish and immigrant students. This discriminatory practice was most common in schools in cities with large numbers of immigrants where colleges received an influx of applications from Jewish students. 

Today, colleges and universities justify legacy admissions by saying it leads to bigger donations from spirited and wealthy alumni, which they say helps with scholarships and other funding. 

The advantage legacy students receive is significant. They are four times as likely to be admitted as those who had similar testing scores, according to the New York Times.

Unfortunately, many colleges do not intend to change their legacy admissions practices.

Vincent Price, the president of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina said in a meeting with the Academic Council in March 2022 that banning legacy admissions goes against the university’s representation of itself as a family.

New Jersey should follow suit by eradicating legacy admissions at its public colleges and universities.

Other elite universities including Columbia University, Princeton University and Stanford University have all decided to keep their legacy admissions policies.

However, some colleges and universities are taking action against legacy admissions.

Last summer, Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut stopped using legacy admissions to confirm its commitment to building a diverse campus, according to a blog post by the university’s president, Michael S. Roth. Likewise, Amherst College in Massachusetts got rid of legacy preference in October 2021 and created a financial aid program for low-middle-income families.

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland achieved high levels of racial diversity by eliminating legacy admissions while increasing financial aid for families that needed it. The university’s percentage of freshmen who are Black, Latino or Native American even exceed those of its Ivy League competitors, according to the Washington Post. 

 In 2020, California passed a law requiring colleges to submit reports on legacy admissions. This was due to a 2019 college admission bribery scandal that caused the public to demand action. In this scandal, wealthy parents funneled their money to a college admissions counselor who gave the money as bribes to coaches and athletic administrators to increase their children’s chances of being accepted.


Colorado followed California’s lead by passing its own legislation. In 2021, it became the first state to ban legacy admissions in public colleges and universities. 

New Jersey should follow suit by eradicating legacy admissions at its public colleges and universities.    

While Rowan University and Rutgers University do not consider legacy admissions, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Ramapo College of New Jersey and The College of New Jersey all have legacy admissions.

Although New Jersey should take action to end legacy admissions at all of its public postsecondary institutions, it is ultimately up to the public to continue speaking out and demanding a change.

Legacy admissions create major problems by perpetuating a cycle of discrimination and privilege. Through state laws and policy changes by college and university officials, this outdated practice can finally come to an end.

bookmark icon