Proposed MA law targets legacy admissions

State Senator Pavel Payano argues that legacy admissions standards make it 'harder for low-income and students of color to be admitted into college.'

Bill provisions include a 'public service fee' that would redistribute funding from richer schools like Harvard to community colleges.

In response to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against affirmative action in college admissions, Massachusetts lawmakers have introduced a bill that would impose a tax on wealthy colleges that exhibit a preference for legacy admissions, such as Harvard University, with the intention to redistribute the funds to community colleges.

Earlier this month, Harvard was sued by Lawyers for Civil Rights, which claims that legacy admissions “harms applicants of color” with preference given to “overwhelmingly white applicants.”

[RELATED: ‘You are hereby warned’: Legal group tells law schools to back off plans to circumvent SCOTUS affirmative action ruling]

Bill H. 3760, “An Act To Advance Fairness, Integrity, and Excellence In Higher Education Admissions,” has been proposed by Senator Pavel Payano and Representative Simon Cataldo. 

Concerned about “equity” in higher education, Payano told Campus Reform that “legacy and donor preference perpetuate inequality by giving preferential treatment to wealthier students.” As a result of such practices, it is “harder for low-income and students of color to be admitted into college.”

Ten additional Democratic members of the Massachusetts legislature have joined as co-sponsors of the legislation. Representative Samantha Montano told Campus Reform that she became a co-sponsor because she believes the bill would “continue to ensure that our universities are getting diverse applicants, and that they’re being accepted, and they are able to continue and complete college.”

The bill would impose a tax (“public service fee”) that varies in cost depending on endowment size for schools that continue legacy admissions.

For instance, the bill stipulates: “No offending higher education institution with endowment assets in excess of $1.5 billion shall pay a public service fee of less than $1 million. No college with endowment assets in excess of $2 billion shall pay a public service fee of less than $2 million.

[RELATED: Harvard responds, suggests it will continue to consider race via loophole in SCOTUS decision]

Under the proposed law, Harvard, the richest university in the world, would bear the most substantial burden as it maintains an endowment of over $50 billion, potentially resulting in fines exceeding $100 million.

The proceeds generated by the “public service fee” would be allocated towards funding less wealthy institutions in Massachusetts. The bill seeks to establish a trust fund “for the purposes of supporting certificate and degree attainment at select public community colleges within the commonwealth.”

“If the schools decide to continue using these pernicious practices, that public service fee that goes into place would create opportunity for the very students that the schools are systematically keeping out of their campuses,” Cataldo told the Harvard Crimson in April.

Campus Reform has contacted all relevant parties for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.