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Doing away with legacy admissions is not the answer to economic diversity

A quad entrance at Brown University in Providence.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Re “Colleges must end the unfair privilege of legacy admissions”: Your Dec. 1 editorial, arguing that ending any preference for alumni children in admissions at the nation’s most competitive universities would be a boost for those from economically less privileged families, is based on a fallacy. What affects the economic diversity of the incoming class at these selective colleges is the amount of financial aid available to the college for that class. Alumni child preference has no impact on this (unless, as many would argue, such policies promote greater philanthropy, and so contribute to a larger number of students on financial aid).

If anyone suffers from the preference, it is not children from underprivileged families, but rather children from other privileged families in which the parents are alumni of a different university. Thousands of such students with excellent academic records are rejected each year by these colleges.


The goal of greater economic diversity at the nation’s top universities is a noble and even urgent one, but your proposed solution would do nothing to bring it about.

David Kertzer


The writer is a professor at Brown University, where, as a provost from 2006 to 2011, he supervised undergraduate admissions.