Colorado bans legacy admissions at public schools to combat 'systemic inequity'

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed a bill that will prohibit public colleges and universities from giving legacy students a boost in the admissions process.

Though legacy admissions are most well-known at elite colleges, many public colleges and universities also consider an applicant's legacy status.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed a bill to eliminate the use of legacy preference for admissions at public colleges within the state. 

State Rep. Kyle Mullica and Sen. Brittany Pettersen, both Democrats and first-generation college graduates, sponsored the bill, HB 21-1173. In an op-ed for the Colorado Sun, Mullica and Pettersen wrote, “This practice of giving preference to students who have a family connection to a particular higher-education institution is discriminatory in nature and is a concrete example of systemic inequity.” The pair also stated that a legacy admissions practice “provides no utility as to whether a student will be successful at the institution.”

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The preference for legacy candidates is a well-known practice in the Ivy League and at other elite schools. However, an applicant’s legacy status can come into play at state schools as well. Colorado Public Radio reports that the University of Virginia, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Indiana University - Bloomington, Auburn University, and Alabama University consider legacy status. Clemson University tells applicants that legacy status is considered, and the University of Nebraska - Lincoln offers a $14,000 annual scholarship for children of alumni to attend the school from out of state, provided they meet certain academic requirements.

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Other elite schools have bucked the trend and stopped considering legacy status in the name of meritocracy. Among those are MIT and Johns Hopkins, whose president announced in The Atlantic that the school would be dropping the “unfair tradition.”

In Colorado, one major admissions leader lended his support behind the bill. The Denver Channel reports that the University of Colorado’s Executive Director of Admissions, Clark Brigger, feels that “removing legacy status consideration will even the playing field for students, and increase access for first-generation college students and students from lower-income families.” 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito