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Lawmakers consider bill to stop legacy college admissions

Lori Mack

Facing growing national calls for colleges to end favoring students of alumni during the admissions process, Connecticut is taking up the issue during its legislative session.

The state’s Higher Education Committee heard from a Yale University student named Logan Roberts during a public hearing on Thursday. He said legacy admissions are a problem and Ivy League students are taking a stance against them.

“A part of the reason why it’s such an issue is because when we look at the history of legacy preference, we see it’s rooted in anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant sentiment,” he said. “And it really only serves to get a leg up to students who already have a substantial leg up in the admissions process.”

Amherst College, a private liberal arts college in neighboring Massachusetts, made big waves in the fall by officially ending its use of legacy preferences during admissions, as reported by WBUR. Amherst’s president Biddy Martin said the preference was no longer in line with the school’s goal of being more accessible to students of all backgrounds.

Several private and public university officials said while they agree that schools should admit more low-income and first-generation students, the state should not be involved with admissions policies.

Nathan Fuerst, vice president for Enrollment at University of Connecticut, said the state’s flagship public institution does not consider legacy status as a part of its admissions decisions. Still, Fuerst says this bill would make it difficult to avoid the “slippery slope” of more legislative restrictions.

“It would undercut our ability to successfully defend our current admissions processes that are inspired by our mission, that are tailored to our unique institutional circumstances, in a way that would best serve us to continue to attract the best and brightest students to the University of Connecticut,” he said.

Terrence Cheng, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, said legacy preferences have not been a practice at the state’s community colleges.

“While past use of legacy preferences has been reported at the state universities, all four CSUs confirm that they no longer utilize legacy preference,” he said. “As this is not a practice in which any of our institutions engage, CSCU is not opposed to the idea of prohibiting this practice. While we applaud the intent of this legislation, it does not appear to have a direct impact on our institutions.”

If the State General Assembly eventually passes the bill, it will become effective July 1.

Catherine is the Host of Connecticut Public’s morning talk show and podcast, Where We Live. Catherine and the WWL team focus on going beyond the headlines to bring in meaningful conversations that put Connecticut in context.

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