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Wesleyan ditches legacy admissions

Samantha Fields Jul 20, 2023
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Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Wesleyan ditches legacy admissions

Samantha Fields Jul 20, 2023
Heard on:
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Wesleyan University in Connecticut just announced that it’s ending legacy admissions. So, kids whose family members went to the school will no longer have an advantage. 

A few other elite, private colleges have already done that, including Amherst College and Johns Hopkins University. So have the University of Georgia, Texas A&M and the University of California.

But many are still hanging onto the practice, largely for financial reasons.

President of Wesleyan University Michael S. Roth said ending legacy admissions has seemed to him like the obvious thing to do for awhile.

“Maybe because I’m a first-generation student myself,” Roth said.

When the Supreme Court banned colleges from considering race in admissions, he decided it was time.

“Some people have asked me, why haven’t schools just done this before?” Roth said. “And I think the reason is that some places worry that folks who would otherwise be inclined to donate to the school won’t donate if you don’t express some care for their offspring.”

Roth said less than 10% of Wesleyan students have a parent who’s an alum. At some top schools it’s higher.

“We know that legacy students tend to come from wealthy families, that means that they’re willing and able to pay higher prices,” said Beth Akers at the American Enterprise Institute. They and their families are also more likely to donate, Akers said, and colleges are afraid of losing that money.

But, whether they actually would … 

“My guess is, is that they honestly don’t know themselves what the counterfactual is,” Akers said.

At Wesleyan, Roth is betting it’ll be positive.

“I believe our donor pool and our alumni group really will find our decision about fairness much more compelling than a decision to slyly help their offspring,” he said.

Or — at least — that’s what he’s hoping. 

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