Sign the petition to Congress: Pass the Fair College Admissions for Students Act

The Supreme Court has decided once again to rule on race-conscious admissions programs–this time, at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. These two cases could mark one of the gravest threats to affirmative action in the last five decades.

In response to this challenge against affirmative action, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16) introduced the Fair College Admissions for Students Act. The act works to stop universities from giving preferential treatment to children of alumni and donors, and ensure equity in the admissions process. It marks the first time that legislation has been filed in Congress to challenge giving admissions preferences to children of alumni and donors.

Despite the fact that affirmative action in higher education has time and time again faced challenges, very little has been done to challenge legacy preferences. Legacy preferences effectively exacerbate discriminatory admissions practices by giving even more leverage to wealthy white students and families.

Students born to wealthy alumni are 45% more likely to get into highly selective colleges. One study revealed legacy status was comparable in admissions value to a 160-point gain on the SATs (on a 1600 point scale). A report from 2019 also shows that nearly half of colleges factored legacy preferences into admissions.

Legacy practices at Harvard specifically have shown a deeply troubling picture. In the 1990’s more students were admitted to Harvard through legacy than the number of Black students and students of color combined. This disparity persists, as 43% of white students at Harvard are legacy, related to donors or staff, or are athletes, compared to less than 16% of students admitted from the 3 most represented BIPOC background.

The battle over legacy and affirmative action is about perception as well. Black students face a plethora of assumptions about being admitted through affirmative action, with peers assuming they are less qualified. White students almost never face assumptions that their admittance is related to legacy practices, or that their admission is somehow tarnished.

As universities continue to seek more diverse student bodies, legacy preferences do more to hurt minority students and low-income students. Legacy preferences are, and have always been, rooted in racism and work to exclude Black students and students of color from educational opportunities, and amplify racial bias in education.  

Sign the petition to Congress: Pass the Fair College Admissions for Students Act.  

Participating Organizations
Blue Amp Action
Daily Kos
The Juggernaut Project
Progressive Reform Network