Virginia Legislature Passes Legacy Admission Ban

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Virginia is taking steps to address legacy admissions in its public universities, prompted by a broader national conversation following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against race-conscious admissions. A bill, sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, banning the practice of zgiving preferential treatment to the children of alumni or donors in the admission process passed in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly over the past week. 

State Sen. Schuyler VanValkenburg and Del. Dan Helmer, both Democrats, have sponsored bills that recently cleared the Senate and House floors, respectively. VanValkenburg noted that the scrutiny on admissions factors led to the realization of the significant role legacy admission plays in the process, prompting a reevaluation of its fairness.

“The reality is that in too many colleges across America, we use legacy admissions in order to give folks a leg up not because of what they’ve done, but because of who their parents are,” Virginia House Delegate Dan Helmer, one of the bill’s sponsors, told Virginia Public Media News. 

While some Virginia universities, like Virginia Tech, have already adjusted their admissions policies regarding legacy status, a fall 2022 report revealed that most public universities in the state still offered preferential treatment to legacy applicants. The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and the College of William & Mary continue to consider legacy status, with VMI assigning a 4.35% weight to it in a student’s admission score.

The University of Virginia, however, handles legacy status differently by allowing its consideration through an optional essay question without ranking or weighting. In contrast, a recent Harvard University study of elite colleges found that legacy students were at least three times more likely to gain admission, emphasizing the potential disparity in admissions processes.