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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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OPINION | Legacy admissions at Tulane hurts diversity

“Last year, four elite private schools — University of Southern California, University of Notre Dame, Cornell University and Dartmouth College — accepted more legacy students than Black students.” (Nathan Rich)

After the Supreme Court overturned affirmative action this summer, the topic of fairness in college admissions has been a hot one. The conversation has mainly followed race and how it should or should not be taken into account when reading a student’s application. This debate also questions what exactly constitutes an impressive college application.

Race, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status all play a role in a student’s pre-collegiate education and impact their chances of getting into top schools. Another crucial factor in the college admissions process is legacy status. There is a long-standing tradition in this country of children of alumni attending the same school their parents did. While the appeal of following in your parents’ footsteps is understandable, it seems that universities have given legacy students an unfair advantage in the game. 

Tulane University does not keep it a secret that it may give special attention to legacy students; the school even recommends that alumni write a letter of recommendation for prospective students on its website

That being said, it is suspiciously hard to find out how many legacy students actually attend Tulane. The school’s website discloses certain demographics of the class of 2027, including race, ethnicity and the number of first-generation students in the class. Conveniently, legacy status is nowhere to be found. While there is little data on Tulane legacy status consideration in applications, other top private schools’ data shows a huge national bias toward legacy admits.

 Someone should not be admitted purely based on their race, but neither should students be admitted based on their parents merits. The American Civil Liberties Union found that at top colleges in the U.S., legacy students are more likely to be accepted than Black and Latinx students combined

The problematic nature of legacy admissions contributes to a long history of white, upper-class students having a leg up in the college admissions process. While money can’t buy knowledge, it can buy opportunity. Between SAT tutoring, a college counselor and going to an expensive school that has resources and connections for its students to get into top 50 schools, the inequalities are endless. 

Due to systemic racism in the U.S., students of color are more likely to go to public schools with less funding, and therefore fewer opportunities. According to the National Association of First-Generation Student Success, first-generation college students are more likely to be students of color. In Harvard University’s class of 2019, 70% of legacy students were white and 41% had parents who made over $500,000 a year. 

Legacy admissions continue the cycle of privileging an elite education to upper-class, white Americans and relegating it to a pipe dream for working class people of color. Getting into a highly selective school because your parents went there, and went on to make enough money to pay full tuition, is not a privilege the average American has. 

Having a disadvantage in the college admissions process simply because your parent went to a less prestigious university, community college, college outside the U.S. or no college at all, is a tool of systemic racism and class oppression. Legacy students are not inherently qualified, and legacy status should not be considered when looking at an application. A less qualified, legacy student getting into a university over a first-generation student is simply unjust. 

The class of 2027 is Tulane’s most diverse class yet, with 41% of students identifying as students of color. Tulane has tried to give spots to high-achieving Louisiana residents and first-generation college students. These are all huge strides towards a more racially and economically diverse student landscape. 

However, legacy consideration should be abolished in order to continue this progress, because parental success should not guarantee a spot in a highly prestigious institution. Admissions teams should consider race and socioeconomic status because those are factors that have historically and presently been used to keep people out of higher education. In order to make the college admissions process more fair, Tulane must acknowledge that it has never been fair for many people and look to correct that in every way possible. 

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