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Wooden blocks spelling “LEGACY” sit atop a pile of shiny coins.

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As Yale University students, our future children stand to benefit from legacy preferences in admissions. Still, we oppose the practice.

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students at Yale agree: It is time for legacy preference admissions to end. This year, the Yale College Council wrote to the Connecticut legislature, affirming its support for what was at the time a proposed ban on legacy preference admissions. Likewise, Yale’s Graduate and Professional Student Senate has passed a resolution, “Calling on Yale to Discontinue Legacy Preference Admissions.”

Though we’re disappointed that Connecticut lawmakers won’t ban legacy preference admissions this year—a bill that would have done so was amended to require colleges to report data on legacy admissions instead—our support for ending the practice remains steadfast.

The term “legacy preference” describes an admissions preference for students with familial ties to an institution of higher education. Its origins date back more than a century, when elite colleges began deprioritizing merit-based metrics and focusing on students’ familial ties during the admissions process. The purpose of these practices was clear: universities intended to limit enrollment of ethnic and religious minorities.

Today, the practice has a similar effect. Legacy preference admissions prioritize lineage over merit, wealth over social mobility, and sameness over diversity.

A 2019 data analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that 70 percent of legacy students at Harvard University were white. Research from Harvard’s Opportunity Insights group published in 2023 found that legacy students from the top 1 percent in household income are five times more likely to be admitted to Ivy-Plus colleges than nonlegacies with similar academic qualifications. Yet nearly 500 colleges and universities nationwide uphold this practice.

Still, the momentum is shifting. Colorado and Virginia have already banned the consideration of legacy status for public colleges, and Maryland just last month banned it for any college that receives state funding. Massachusetts and New York are considering similar bans.

Here in Connecticut, the bill that would require colleges to report legacy admissions data to state lawmakers has passed the Senate and is now awaiting action in the House. We hope this will be an interim step on the way to an eventual ban.

It’s telling that the prospect of a possible ban on legacy admissions at both public and private colleges in Connecticut drew resistance from several of the state’s private colleges, including Yale. Yale’s dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid submitted testimony to the General Assembly opposing a ban in which he claimed, “The process and criteria for selecting students for admission, together with the processes and criteria for hiring faculty and deciding which courses to offer, define an academic campus community and culture.”

We are concerned that the university wants to protect a “community and culture” based on parents’ identities, not students’ passions, backgrounds and successes.

If Yale continues this practice, our children will benefit substantially when they apply to college. As part of historically diverse classes, we have grappled with what it means for future legacy beneficiaries to become increasingly diverse. Yet, our opposition to legacy admissions remains firm. As future alumni of color, our objections to the legacy system remain rooted in its fundamentally unmeritocratic and discriminatory nature.

When students graduate from college, their diplomas should represent the richness of their intellectual and academic experiences. However, legacy preference admissions undermine this aspiration by reinforcing hereditary privilege. Pursuing a degree at Yale is an honor—an education that should prepare us for the future. Legacy preferences, however, are a thing of the past.

Birikti Kahsai is a first-year undergraduate student at Yale University and a senator in the Yale College Council.

Sam Haddad is a first-year student at Yale Law School and senator for Yale’s Graduate and Professional Student Senate.

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