Virginia Legislation Aims to End Favoritism in Public University Admissions

( – On Tuesday January 30, the Virginia House joined the Senate in unanimously voting to block preferential treatment for what are sometimes referred to as legacy students. These are prospective students who are related to school alumni and donors. The legislation is expected to soon land on Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk for approval or rejection. Christian Martinez, a spokesperson for Youngkin’s office, said the Governor carefully reviews such documents carefully before committing to an answer, and that he supports college admissions based on merit alone.

A push to rid the public college system of bias in admissions has been intensifying. On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-conscious affirmative action in colleges, declaring such considerations in admissions to be unlawful. After that decision, public attention turned to legacy admissions as another unfair practice that weighs immutable characteristics for college acceptance. According to Education Reform Now, an education reform non-profit, Virginia is one of five states where the majority of higher education institutions offer advantages in admission to legacy students.

The legislation known as House Bill 48 has wide bipartisan support. Democratic Virginia House Delegate Dan Helmer asserted that this bill would assure that a student’s chance of admission will not be affected by their parent’s donations or alumni status, while Republican Delegate Thomas Garrett commented that granting special privileges based on those factors is “absolutely discriminatory”. Garret added that he supports creating a level playing field for prospective students in Virginia.

Legislation to end legacy admission has already been successful in Colorado, and New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are all working on similar measures. Ahead of the legislation, Virginia Tech has already ended legacy influenced admissions. Support for ending alumni and donor legacy admissions is also gathering support on a federal level. Pew Research has also indicated that a vast majority of Americans don’t believe this special treatment for the children of alumni or donors should have any bearing on admission. It seems despite what it sounds like in election year rhetoric, that Americans agree on things like merit and fairness.

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