Stop Letting the Wealthy Buy College Admission

Target: Lawrence S. Bacow, President of Harvard University

Goal: End admissions bias that disadvantages low-income and minority students.

As the guilty pleas and plea bargains keep coming in the college admissions scandal, perhaps the most blatant abuse of wealth and privilege within higher education continues largely unabated. So-called legacy admissions favor the children or other relatives of an elite school’s rich alumni. This blatant favoritism puts lesser privileged, more qualified students at a significant disadvantage.

Studies estimate that legacy status can raise a student’s chance of admission to an Ivy League school anywhere from 20 to 40 percent. These students are often given higher points on admission criteria and extra consideration in the final selection process simply because of their last names and the size of their family’s bank account. Most elite institutions keep this unfavorable system in place for the primary purpose of securing sizable donations from alumni…a legalized pay-for-play scheme at the expense of other, less ‘connected’ students.

Too many youth, regardless of their intelligence or talent, ultimately suffer most. Legacy students as a group almost invariably score lower on college admittance exams and perform at a poorer academic level once they have gained admission. Low-income students who have earned their grades and their academic standing based on merit are often rejected from prestigious schools when there are simply not enough available slots. The racial diversity at elite institutions is even more lacking, as no Ivy League school has an African American student population above nine percent. Rates for other minorities are even worse.

While affirmative action admissions continue to be a popular target in some political circles, the real bias remains untouched. Sign this petition to urge Ivy League and legacy admission abuser Harvard to stop legacy admissions and start making education an equal opportunity for all.


Dear Mr. Bacow,

Operation Varsity Blues has shone a bright and likely unwanted spotlight on wealth and privilege in education. The University of California system took several significant steps to address this crisis; primary among these solutions was the proposed abolition of legacy admissions. With up to 40 percent of your students holding legacy status, what will one of America’s most respected institutions do to lead the way?

The under-five percent acceptance rate at Harvard makes that letter of acceptance a badge of honor for all students who receive it. So many more will feel the sting of losing this validation. What does it say, however, when this badge of ultimate merit is essentially bought for the right price? What does this badge of distinction mean when those who wear it fail to meet even mediocre academic standards? What value can we find when this badge by its nature excludes 99 percent of the population (and nearly all minorities) while rewarding the top one percent?

Take a hard look at your legacy admissions policy. Harvard should be the pinnacle. Make the climb a hard-earned achievement, and end free, convenient rides to the top.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Bill Davenport

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245 Signatures

  • Dr. Stacey McRae
  • Carolyn Adams Adams
  • Paula Lambert
  • eric hennuy
  • Barbra Doherty
  • Marianne Mancini
  • Monique Battoue-Delporte
  • Wanda Ray
  • Andreas Dorst
  • Julia Linke
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