Have you ever heard of a friend or acquaintance being admitted to a University way out of their academic league? Have you ever wondered how certain students seem to get a leg-up in the admissions process despite being underqualified? If you’ve ever asked these types of questions, you’re not alone!
While the topic of “Legacy Admissions” has always been a silent scandal within the higher education system, recently, this topic has reached new levels of intrigue and controversy. This practice, which continues to be a hot topic of discussion among students, parents, and educators, involves giving preference to applicants with family ties to a particular institution.
This practice largely grants underqualified students a leg up in the highly competitive admissions process. While the concept of legacy admissions is not unique to any one type of college or university, it has raised questions about fairness, meritocracy, and diversity within the admissions process.
This article will not only explore the world of legacy admissions, but we will also uncover what Christian colleges are doing to combat this modern academic plague.
What Are Legacy Admissions?
According to US News: “Legacy admissions, also known as legacy preferences, are admissions policies wherein applicants with family connections to a particular educational institution are given preferential treatment during the admissions process.”
These connections can include parents, grandparents, or siblings who have previously attended or are currently associated with the institution in some capacity. While the specifics of legacy admissions policies can vary from one institution to another, they typically involve certain benefits for legacy applicants, such as:
- Lowered Admission Standards
- Enhanced Consideration
- Increased Odds Of Acceptance
- Financial Incentives
Implications of Legacy Admissions
As The Washington Post properly pointed out in a recent article on legacy admissions, there are severe implications to the practice of giving preferential treatment to legacy applicants. According to the article, “Legacy preferences, which often favor the White and wealthy, often raise admission chances significantly at colleges that deny 80 percent or more of applicants.”
This means that legacy admissions are actively working against students who need the most help, revealing legacy admissions to be a practice that is fundamentally opposed to traditional Christian values.
Legacy admissions, although intended to maintain a connection between an institution and its alumni, have raised several important questions and concerns:
- Fairness and Merit: Critics argue that legacy admissions contradict the principles of fairness and merit-based admission. By favoring applicants based on family ties rather than individual accomplishments, the application process faces deterioration by perpetuating inequality and undermining the concept of equal opportunity.
- Diversity and Inclusivity: Legacy admissions can potentially limit the diversity and inclusivity of an institution. If legacy students come from predominantly privileged backgrounds, it may exacerbate existing disparities in higher education.
- Opportunity Costs: When legacy applicants are admitted with less stringent qualifications, it might mean that more qualified non-legacy applicants are denied admission. This raises questions about whether resources are being allocated optimally.
- Reputation and Alumni Relations: Legacy admissions can foster strong alumni connections and financial support for institutions. However, it can also lead to accusations of nepotism, eroding the public image and credibility of the institution.
- Legal and Ethical Concerns: In the US, legacy admissions policies have faced legal challenges, especially in regard to affirmative, and many consider them ethically problematic.
According to The New Yorker: “The Supreme Court’s ruling, in Students for Fair Admissions’ cases against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, prohibited schools from considering race as a factor in admissions.”
The New Yorker went on to say: “The Court’s decision has unleashed furious attention to inequalities that have limited access to élite educational institutions. Legacy preferences are the obvious first target because they appear to have functioned as a kind of counterweight to affirmative action.”
The discussion surrounding this topic even got President Biden’s attention,, who had this to say regarding the Supreme Court’s recent ruling: “[my department of education] will be examining practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity.”
Do Christian Colleges Generally Practice Legacy Admissions?
Legacy admissions are not exclusive to any specific type of college or university; they can be found in various academic settings, including public and private institutions, liberal arts colleges, and, yes, Christian colleges too.
The prevalence and nature of legacy admissions in Christian colleges can vary widely depending on the institution’s specific policies. It is essential to note that not all Christian colleges engage in these practices, and based on a recent US Supreme Court ruling, many Christian Colleges have been leading the charge to implement stricter policies against such preferences.
Certain Christian colleges, like Wesleyan University, have come right out and condemned such practices, vowing that their institutions would not take part.
According to CNN Business: “Since the Supreme Court’s decision on race-based admissions, Wesleyan University and the University of Minnesota dropped legacy admissions…‘It was clear we should get rid of it,’ Wesleyan President Michael Roth said on CNN This Morning in July. ‘The Supreme Court’s decision saying we shouldn’t consider the groups with which students are identified — racial groups — made it even more clear to me that it was indefensible to give preference to the children of alumni.’”
Most Christian Colleges and Universities, which are typically founded on religious principles, have been at the forefront of abolishing this practice and can be considered an example of how to amend and refine processes based on shifting social landscapes.
Wesleyan University is leading the charge among Christian colleges for abolishing legacy admissions and has been outspoken about the steps they’re taking as an institution. Recently, the President of Wesleyan University was quoted in an article from USA Today as saying:
“We still value the ongoing relationships that come from multi-generational Wesleyan attendance, but there will be no ‘bump’ in the selection process. As has been almost always the case for a long time, family members of alumni will be admitted on their own merits.” -Wesleyan President Michael Roth.
The Christian Perspective on Legacy Admissions
Christian colleges, including online Christian colleges, often ground their admission policies in their religious values and mission statements. This perspective can influence their approach to this practice in several ways:
- Commitment to Mission: Many Christian colleges prioritize applicants strongly in alignment with the institution’s religious mission and values. While legacy applicants may receive favorable treatment if they commit to these principles, this type of discernment is generally shown equally to all applicants.
- Service and Community: Christian colleges emphasize the importance of service and community engagement. While there is a danger that legacy status may be used as a proxy for service, an applicant would still need to prove active participation in their respective community.
- Legacy as a Factor, Not a Guarantee: Christian colleges, like many other types of institutions, typically view legacy status as just one of many factors in the admissions process. It may provide a slight advantage but is unlikely to be the sole determining factor.
- Promotion of Family Values: Given the significance of family in many Christian traditions, legacy admissions might be seen as a way to promote the importance of family and generational commitment to the institution. This is the biggest danger for Christian Colleges and should be guarded against.
It is important to keep in mind that while Christian colleges often have unique values and missions, they also strive to adhere to principles of fairness and inclusivity in their admissions processes.
The call to uphold and defend the dignity and value of the individual is distinctively Christian. It is precisely this value that places the ideal of legacy admissions in direct contrast with true Christian values.
Onward And Upward: Moving Away From Legacy Admissions
While this practice can certainly be found in Christian Colleges, the reality is that most Christian schools are leaders in abolishing it. Legacy admissions, a dangerous practice that is not unique to any one school, must be addressed by the American higher education system to safeguard fairness and equity.
The nature and extent of legacy admissions policies in Christian institutions vary, and they are shaped by the college’s specific mission and values. While legacy status can provide an advantage to applicants, it is typically not the sole determinant of admission.
As discussions surrounding the fairness and ethics of this practice continue, it is essential to recognize that Christian colleges, just like other institutions, grapple with the balance between tradition, family values, and the pursuit of a diverse and equitable student body.
The role of legacy admissions in Christian colleges will continue to evolve as institutions adapt to changing societal norms and expectations, but ultimately, Christian colleges and online Christian universities must serve as a beacon of resolve and truth by standing up against this unethical practice.