Virginia is on track to ban legacy preferences at its public universities, which give a boost to the children of graduates applying for admission.
The state House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would repeal the preferences. the State Senate did so last week.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office indicated he would sign the legislation, saying in a statement that he “believes that admission to Virginia’s universities and colleges should be based on merit.” The law will go into effect on July 1, after admissions decisions are made for the fall of 2024.
The ban, which would affect two of the nation’s most selective public universities, the University of Virginia and William & Mary, is another sign that old-fashioned admissions, which mostly benefit students who are white, wealthy and well-connected , are falling out of favor around the world. Country. Virginia Tech, another prestigious public university in the state, announced last year that it would no longer consider legacy status.
Legacy imports were targeted last year soon after the Supreme Court banned race-conscious imports. President Biden said legacy preferences expand “privilege instead of opportunity.”
After the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, several highly selective private schools, including Wesleyan University, announced they would do away with legacy preferences. And New York University said it would remove a check-off on its application that asked whether prospective students were endowments.
They joined several selective colleges that had already done away with or never used legacy preferences, including MIT, Johns Hopkins, Amherst College, and the University of California system.
The state of Colorado has banned legacy preferences at its public universities, and similar legislation banning the practice has been introduced in Congress in states like Connecticut and New York.
But many elite private universities — including Harvard, Yale and Brown — continue to favor the children of graduates. Data recently released by the Department of Education found that nearly 600 colleges and universities consider heritage status in admissions.
Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania are the subjects of federal Department of Education investigations into their use of legacy preferences and whether the practice constitutes a civil rights violation. The Harvard investigation was launched after a complaint was filed by three advocacy groups.
The bill in Virginia, which still has to undergo more legislative maneuvering before going to the governor for signature, would also ban “donor status” consideration in admissions to state institutions. Under this practice, wealthy parents or other relatives could secure entry for their children by donating funds for new buildings or programs.
Dan Helmer, a Democrat who sponsored the bill in the Virginia House, said it’s time to level the playing field.
“The vast majority of Virginians, whether they’re Democrats, Republicans or independents, want a university system that admits students based on who they are and what they’ve done, not who their parents are,” Mr. Helmer said.
Mr. Helmer, a West Point graduate, said none of the state’s universities had taken a public position against the legislation, although he suggested they may have been lobbying privately. “A few universities may have stopped,” he added, “and I said, ‘If you want to go on the record publicly, you can.’
The University of Virginia, where legacy admissions sometimes accounted for as much as 14 percent of an entering class, recently adjusted its admissions application to eliminate a check box for legacy status, but said students could still indicate in their admissions essays if they were legacies.
In a statement Tuesday, Brian T. Coy, a spokesman for the University of Virginia, said it was the university’s policy not to comment on pending legislation. “For decades, U.Va. has assessed each candidate for undergraduate admission as an individual with a unique story and combination of strengths,” he said, “rather than through weighted methods and checklists.”
A conservative Virginia alumni organization known as the Jefferson Council has not taken a position on the legislation, according to its executive director, James A. Bacon.
“We are of two minds,” Mr. Bacon wrote in an email. On the one hand, he said, intergenerational families tend to be more loyal, committed and generous to the university. “On the other hand, we support merit-based admissions based on character and academic achievement,” he wrote.
William & Mary is also looking at legacy pay. In a statement, the university said it would comment on the potential impact of the bill after its final passage. In the statement, a university spokeswoman, Susan Clavette, said the school’s data showed that accepted applicants who were bequests were more than twice as likely to enroll at the school than other acceptees.