RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia wants universities and colleges to stop favoring relatives of alumni or donors in their admissions process.
Kaine, a Democrat, joined Republican U.S. Sen Todd Young of Indiana to introduce legislation to stop schools from using applicants’ ties to alumni or donors as the “determinative factor” in the admissions process.
“A student’s acceptance into a college should not hinge on whether their parents attended that school or donated a large sum of money,” Kaine said in a statement.
Calls to end legacy admissions grew after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-based affirmative action in admissions earlier this year. Schools have ended the practice and other prominent ones, including Harvard, have faced scrutiny for legacy admissions after the end of race-conscious admissions.
More than 100 colleges and universities have ended legacy admissions since 2015, per a report from the nonprofit Education Reform Now, but 787 still used the practice in 2020.
The measure from Kaine and Young, known as the Merit-Based Educational Reforms and Institutional Transparency Act (MERIT Act), would add a new accreditation standard to the Higher Education Act to prevent schools from giving preferential treatment to these applicants.
“This legislation would help bring more fairness to the higher education admissions process, and ensure that first-generation and low-income students are not put at a disadvantage because of their parents’ educational histories or incomes,” Kaine added.
The proposed new standard wouldn’t prevent universities and colleges from considering an applicant’s “genuine interest” in the school during the process, and would make sure religious institutions can make decisions that align with their faith-based values.
The bill from Kaine and Young would require a study to assess data collection improvement on the influence of legacy and donor relationships on admission choices.
“America is a land of opportunity, not a land of aristocracy,” Young said in a statement. “Legacy admissions restrict opportunities for many bright and talented young Americans and provide unmerited advantage to the most connected individuals in our society.”