Virginia Tech will discontinue the role legacy plays in admissions, while the University of Virginia will limit it.
The policy changes follow the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on affirmative action that emphasized equity and inclusion in the college admissions process.
Though the issue was not explicitly included in the June Supreme Court ruling, legacy admissions — where children of alumni receive preferential treatment during the application process — have come under scrutiny as opponents argue they tend to give an unfair advantage to white, high-income families.
The U.S. Department of Education recently launched an investigation into Harvard’s legacy admission policy, and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden “made clear that legacy admissions hold back our ability to build diverse student bodies.”
The two Virginia colleges seem to agree.
Virginia Tech announced on July 28 that it would no longer consider legacy status in its application, making it the first college in Virginia and only the fourth college overall to do so, according to Inside Higher Ed.
In the same statement, the college said it would also discontinue early decision admission – which locks students into an admission decision before they can review financial aid options from different schools – and that it would comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling not to consider a student’s race or ethnicity in the admissions process.
The school said that legacy status has been a decreasingly significant factor in admissions in recent years.
“Every year we examine our admissions and enrollment practices to ensure that we continue to strive for a best practiced and innovative approach to providing access to a Virginia Tech education to all qualified applicants,” said Luisa Havens-Gerardo, vice provost for enrollment management. “The discontinuation of the early decision plan and the use of legacy as a factor in admissions will allow us to improve the admissions process to benefit all students.”
UVA followed soon after, announcing on August 1 that its application would no longer include a checkbox to indicate whether applicants are related to alumni of the school.
However, the application will include an optional prompt in which students can describe “their relationship with the university and how those experiences have prepared them to contribute as individuals” — including, but not limited to, the children of graduates and “descendants of ancestors who labored at the university.”
This strategy is similar to the one it employed in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, where the university allowed an essay prompt inviting undergraduates to describe their experiences, “including but not limited to their experiences of race or ethnicity, and the ways in which those experiences have shaped their abilities to contribute.”
Virginia Tech said that the freshman class of 2022 was its most diverse in history, with 40.4 percent of the incoming class representing minorities or underserved students. “Over 20 percent” of its incoming class were legacy students, it said.
The University of Virginia’s 2022 freshman class was 46.8 percent minority students, and 9 percent came from low-income households. Legacy students represented 14.1 percent of the incoming class.
These announcements coincide with the August 1 opening of the Common Application, which marks the beginning of the 2023–2024 college admission cycle.
Feature image of the University of Virginia, David Matthew Lyons/stock.adobe.com
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