Virginia Ban of Legacy Preferences Paves Way for Fair Admissions


Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed historic legislation on Friday, ushering in a new era for college admissions in the state. The bills, unanimously approved by both chambers of the General Assembly, prohibit public universities from giving preference to legacy applicants in admissions decisions.

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Farragutful)

Ending a Controversial Practice

Legacy preference, long criticized for perpetuating inequality and favoring the privileged, has been a contentious issue in higher education. Under this practice, applicants with family ties to alumni or donors are often given preferential treatment in the admissions process. Advocates of ending legacy preferences argue that such policies undermine merit-based admissions and perpetuate social inequities by giving an advantage to applicants from affluent backgrounds.

Democratic Senator Schuyler T. VanValkenburg, who sponsored the Senate bill, emphasized the lack of opposition to the legislation. In an interview with The Washington Post, Senator VanValkenburg stated, "There really wasn’t any pushback. I think colleges know that these practices are indefensible."

Virginia's move to ban legacy preferences reflects a growing trend across the nation. Colorado took a similar step in 2021, enacting legislation to prohibit legacy preferences in public university admissions. Additionally, the Maryland House of Delegates recently passed a legacy ban bill, which is now advancing to the Senate for consideration. States like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York are also considering measures to eliminate legacy preferences in both public and private institutions.

READ ALSO: Ending of Legacy Admissions in California Higher Education Proposed Amidst Equity Concerns

Support for Nationwide Change

The decision in Virginia has garnered praise from lawmakers and advocates who support nationwide reform in college admissions practices. U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Todd Young, sponsors of bipartisan legislation aimed at ending legacy and donor admissions preferences nationwide, lauded Virginia's initiative as a step towards promoting fairness and equity in higher education.

In a joint statement, Senators Kaine and Young expressed their satisfaction with Virginia's move and called for further action. They expressed satisfaction with Virginia's decision and urged for further action, emphasizing the importance of passing their bill to eliminate legacy and donor admissions preferences nationwide. They believe this will enhance upward mobility and fairness in the admissions process.

The push to eliminate legacy preferences aligns with broader efforts to address inequities in higher education admissions. Proponents argue that by prioritizing merit and academic achievement over familial connections, universities can create a more level playing field for all applicants, regardless of their socio-economic background.

Implications for Virginia's Higher Education Landscape

The legislation's impact on Virginia's higher education landscape remains to be seen. While some view the ban on legacy preferences as a positive step towards equity, others raise concerns about its potential effects on alumni engagement and fundraising efforts.

Critics argue that ending legacy preferences could deter donations from alumni who value the opportunity to pass down their alma mater's legacy to their children. Additionally, some fear that the removal of legacy preferences may lead to decreased alumni involvement and support for their alma maters.

However, supporters contend that prioritizing fairness and merit in college admissions is essential for fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. They believe that by eliminating legacy preferences, Virginia's public universities can create a more inclusive and accessible learning environment for all students.

As Virginia embarks on this new chapter in college admissions, the state sets a precedent for other jurisdictions grappling with similar issues. By prioritizing fairness and meritocracy, Virginia aims to create a more equitable and accessible pathway to higher education for future generations.

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