- About three out of every four U.S. adults believe that race or ethnicity should not be a factor in admissions decisions, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center gauging what the public believes colleges should consider when admitting a student. And 75% said a prospective student's legacy status — whether they had a relative who attended a college — should not factor into their admission.
- Some 39% of adults said standardized test scores should be a major factor, down from 47% three years ago. Another 46% said test scores should be a minor factor in the new survey, while 14% said they shouldn't be a factor at all.
- The public was largely divided over whether someone being the first in their family to attend college should be considered in admissions decisions. Some 46% said it should not be a factor in admissions, and 54% said it should play a role.
The new survey data comes as college admissions processes find themselves under the microscope amid high-profile legal battles and the Varsity Blues bribery scandal.
The Supreme Court is set to rule later this year on the legality of race-conscious admissions policies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Harvard University. Previous iterations of the Supreme Court upheld similar admissions policies, but defenders of race-conscious admissions fear a new conservative majority will break from precedent.
Pew examined partisan splits in the way the public views race or ethnicity as a factor in admissions. Some 87% of Republicans said race or ethnicity should not be a factor in admissions, compared to 62% of Democrats.
Meanwhile, changing attitudes toward standardized tests follow a nationwide trend in admissions offices. Many colleges that dropped testing requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic have decided to make the change permanent.
Test providers say standardized testing is an important way for overlooked students to prove their merit, while critics allege the testing favors wealthy students who can afford to pay for prep services. One study found that making admissions tests optional at private colleges is associated with modest enrollment gains among students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Among Pew's other findings, 36% of survey respondents said athletic ability should be a minor factor in admissions and 9% said it should be a major one. That remains consistent with polling from 2019.
High school grades remain the most agreed-upon part of the admissions process by the public. High school grades should be at least a minor factor in admissions decisions, 93% of survey respondents said. And 61% said grades should be a major factor.
The findings are based on responses from 10,441 members of Pew's American Trends Panel collected between March 7 and March 13.