U.S. Education Secretary Open to Using Federal Funds to Address Legacy Admissions
In an interview with The Associated Press, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressed his willingness to take action against colleges that give preferential admissions to wealthy donors and alumni. He stated that as secretary of Education, he would use all available means to ensure that financial aid and loans are given to institutions that provide value.
“I would be interested in pulling whatever levers I can pull as secretary of Education to ensure that, especially if we’re giving out financial aid and loans, that we’re doing it for institutions that are providing value,” Mr. Cardona said.
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The practice of legacy admissions has faced scrutiny following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action policies at U.S. colleges and universities. Advocacy group Students for Fair Admission (SFFA) called on elite universities to end legacy admission practices, stating that these preferences are long overdue for elimination.
In early July, activist groups filed a complaint against Harvard for granting “special preferences” to applicants related to wealthy donors or alumni. The U.S. Department of Education subsequently opened an investigation into Harvard.
Mr. Cardona, like some Democrat lawmakers, criticized universities for giving preferences to legacy admits, highlighting the potential for last names or financial contributions to influence admissions. However, he did not voice support for legislative proposals banning legacy admission, stating that universities should have the final say on the matter.
Legislation called the Fair College Admissions for Students Act has been introduced by Democrat lawmakers, aiming to ban higher education institutions from participating in federal student aid programs if they engage in legacy admissions.
Mr. Cardona warned that without action, the nation could face setbacks similar to those experienced by California after ending affirmative action in 1996. He emphasized the importance of diverse learning environments and the strength of the country.
A majority of Americans, according to a 2022 Pew Research Institute poll, believe that legacy admissions should not be a factor in admissions. Republican figures such as Sen. Tim Scott and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have also called for an end to legacy admissions.
“I think the question is how do you continue to create a culture where education is the goal for every single part of our community? One of the things that Harvard could do to make that even better is to eliminate any legacy programs where they have preferential treatment for legacy kids, not allow for the professors, their kids, to come to Harvard as well,” Mr. Scott told Fox News on June 29.
“Here’s a good path forward for Harvard after the Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action: No racial preferences. No legacy admissions.” Mr. Ramaswamy wrote on X on July 1. “Time to put ‘merit’ back into America.”
How does Secretary Cardona’s statement regarding federal funds and legacy admissions impact the ongoing conversation about equity in higher education
Elated to donors and alumni. The complaint alleged that this practice violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs receiving federal funding. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced that it would investigate the allegations against Harvard.
Legacy admissions is the practice of giving preferential treatment to applicants who are relatives of alumni or donors to the institution. Critics argue that this practice perpetuates inequality and restricts access to higher education for talented individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. They believe that admissions should be based solely on merit and academic achievement.
Proponents of legacy admissions, on the other hand, argue that it fosters a sense of community and loyalty among alumni and donors. They contend that these preferences play a crucial role in fundraising efforts, as alumni and donors are more likely to support institutions that provide benefits to their children or relatives.
The debate over legacy admissions is not new. It has been a topic of discussion for years, with increasing calls for reform. However, Secretary Cardona’s statement indicates a potential shift in the federal government’s stance on this issue. By expressing his willingness to use federal funds to address legacy admissions, he signals a commitment to promoting fairness and equity in higher education.
It remains to be seen how Secretary Cardona plans to address legacy admissions and what actions he will take. However, his statement sends a clear message that the Department of Education under his leadership will prioritize equal access to education and the promotion of value in higher education institutions.
In conclusion, Secretary Cardona’s openness to using federal funds to address legacy admissions marks a significant development in the ongoing conversation about equity in higher education. As the Department of Education investigates the allegations against Harvard and potentially takes further action, it sets the stage for potential reforms in admissions practices across the country. The outcome of these efforts will shape the future of higher education in the United States and determine whether access to education is truly based on merit and fairness.
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