- At least 579 federally funded colleges consider whether applicants are related to alumni in their admissions process, according to data the U.S. Department of Education released Tuesday.
- For the 2022-23 academic year, the Education Department started asking about colleges’ use of legacy status for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. IPEDS is a publicly available database that details information like colleges’ enrollment numbers and tuition costs.
- Of the 1,900-plus federally funded colleges that are at least somewhat selective, 1,344 do not factor in legacy preferences, the department found. Colleges self-disclose IPEDS data, however, opening up the possibility for mistakes and misinterpretations.
Colleges have factored legacy status in admissions for decades, but the practice is under new scrutiny following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling race-conscious policies unconstitutional in June.
Higher ed leaders say the high court’s decision has dissuaded some historically marginalized applicants from seeking a college education, while research has shown legacy preferences favor the wealthy.
High-ranking Biden administration officials have also since expressed public skepticism over legacy status. James Kvaal, department undersecretary, told Higher Ed Dive last month that colleges need to take a “long look at their policies and practices that expand privilege instead of opportunity and that includes preferences for legacies.”
Muddy data on legacy admissions has made it difficult to understand. Colleges self-report on data for IPEDS and the Common Data Set, another public database of higher ed statistics. They have sometimes erred in that reporting.
Researchers have expressed hope that the new IPEDS question on legacy status will lead to cleaner data on the subject. The Education Department also began inquiring about whether colleges look at work experience and personal essays in admissions.
Of more than 1,900 selective institutions, 648 require a personal essay, 716 will read one if submitted and 559 do not consider one.
And 26 colleges require students to submit their work experience, 827 will consider it if submitted and 1,070 don’t look at it whatsoever.