Colorado becomes first state to ban legacy admissions for public colleges


Colorado became the first state in the nation to ban legacy admissions for public colleges this week, a move that Gov. Jared Polis said will create more of a meritocracy in higher education. 

“This bill will help move us in a direction where our higher education institutions are moving towards being meritocracies — meaning that you have to earn admission because of who you are and what you can do and what your potential is, not who your parents or grandparents were,” Polis said after signing the bill Tuesday.

The bill says that “state-supported institutions of higher education shall not consider a legacy preference… as eligible criteria for admission standards.”

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The change will only affect public schools, which already put much less weight on legacy when deciding whether to admit an applicant. Just 6% of admissions directors at public colleges say they consider legacy status in applications, while 42% of admissions directors at private schools say legacy plays a role, according to a 2018 survey by Inside Higher Ed. 

The Flatirons behind a classroom building on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, Colorado.

The Flatirons behind a classroom building on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, Colorado.
(iStock)

Other individuals schools have put an end to legacy admissions, but Colorado is the first to end the practice statewide. 

Texas A&M University was the first to abolish legacy admissions in 2004 and Johns Hopkins University followed suit in January 2020. 

Polis also signed a bill this week that will make standardized tests like the ACT and SAT optional for applicants moving forward. 

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“While students can still submit national test scores if they choose, this bill will help students by reducing inequality in college admissions,” CU Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said Wednesday. “Reducing barriers to the college admissions process creates more equity and helps us fulfill our responsibility as the state’s flagship public research university to educate all Colorado students regardless of financial means and backgrounds.”

The bill is intended to create a more equitable system for college admissions in Colorado, but a Standford working paper finds that other elements of applications are more closely correlated with household income than SAT scores. 

“Results show that essays have a stronger correlation to reported household income than SAT scores,” the Stanford researchers wrote. 

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The move comes after the University of California Board of Regents, which oversees more than 280,000 students statewide, agreed earlier this month to drop standardized tests altogether. 

About 60% of undergraduate institutions nationwide will not require standardized test scores for fall 2022 admissions, according to the Massachusetts-based nonprofit FairTest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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