NYT calls for an end to legacy college admissions

In the wake of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, a new debate opened up, about the mundane, everyday ways that wealthy people buy their way into elite institutions: from hiring, poorer, smarter kids to write their kids' essays, to surrendering custody of your kids in order to misappropriate low-income tuition grants, to simply "donating" shit-tons of money to the school.

But nothing epitomizes life on the lowest difficulty-setting like the system of "legacy college admissions," wherein the fact that your parents were privileged enough to attend an elite institution entitles you to preferential treatment if you want to literally inherit that privilege.

Now, the New York Times editorial board has come out for the abolition of legacy admissions, pointing out that virtually every other developed nation on Earth has already done so.

The Times calls legacy admissions "anti-meritocratic" and yeah, it is, but meritocracy has always been anti-meritocratic, literally since the coining of the term. There are plenty of good reasons to abolish legacy admissions, and the Times enumerates many of them, but the idea that "meritocracy" should get a look in here is something of a sick joke.

Colleges counter that the children of alumni — partly by virtue of the education their parents received — are well qualified for admission into their schools. That raises the question: If the value of a degree is indeed generational (research shows that it very likely is), why do the progeny and grandprogeny of graduates deserve yet another thumb on the scale?

Like many policies of past eras, legacy admissions get uglier the closer you look at them. A few decades ago, the percentage of legacy students at top schools was sometimes higher than it is today. But admission rates at those institutions have fallen much faster than the percentage of legacy students. “If you take a typical Ivy League school, maybe 20 or 30 years ago, they might admit two-thirds of legacy applicants. Now they might admit one-third of legacy applicants. But, at the same time, their overall acceptance rate has probably gone down from between 20 and 25 percent to between 5 and 10 percent. So, proportionally, being a legacy is even more of an advantage,” Dan Golden, an investigative journalist, told The New Yorker.

End Legacy College Admissions [The Editorial Board/New York Times]

(via Naked Capitalism)