California’s attempt to crack down on legacy and donor eligibility could hit USC, Stanford

FILE – People walk on the Stanford University campus beneath the Hoover Tower on March 14, 2019, in Stanford, California. Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said Wednesday, July 19, 2023, that he would resign, citing an independent investigation that cleared him of research misconduct but found flaws in other papers produced by his lab written. Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement to students and staff that he would resign on August 31. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)
(Ben Margot/Associated Press)

California’s attempt to crack down on legacy and donor eligibility could hit USC, Stanford

Education, @latimes on Instagram, California Politics

Teresa Watanabe

February 29, 2024

As scrutiny over the fairness of college admissions increases, a California lawmaker renewed his efforts Wednesday to ban state financial aid to private campuses, including USC and Stanford University, that give admissions preferences to children of alumni and donors.

These preferences, also known as “legacy admissions,” have come under increasing fire following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last June, which struck down race-based affirmative action in cases involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill were involved. Critics say


Legacy admissions disproportionately favor wealthy applicants, most of whom are white, and should be eliminated.

just now

because race was banned from deciding who gets into the nation’s most selective colleges and universities.

“We want to ensure that every student who applies to the most elite schools in our state has an opportunity, that it is fair and equitable,” Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said Wednesday as he unveiled his new bill at a press conference in Sacramento with equality advocates and two Stanford students.

USC, Stanford and Santa Clara University are the largest legacy providers and donor preferences in California, according to annual data they have filed with the state for the past four years.

The University of California and California State University systems do not give preferential treatment to children of alumni and donors, and some private institutions, such as Occidental and Pomona Colleges, have dropped the practice in recent years.

The bill, AB 1780, would prohibit colleges and universities from participating in the Cal Grant program if they provide preferential treatment in admissions to an applicant related to a donor or alumni. The Cal Grant program provides financial assistance to cover full tuition and fees to qualified financially needy students at UC and CSU, and some assistance to students at private institutions. Certain living expenses are also provided on a limited basis.

USC accepted 1,740 applicants with legacy or donor connections, or 14.4% of the admitted class in fall 2022, according to data provided to the state. Of these, 96% were related to alumni and almost 4% were exclusively connected to donors. Stanford offered admission to 287 students, or 13.8% of the class, of which 92% were alumni and 8% had ties only to donors.

Santa Clara admitted 1,133 students with alumni or donor connections, representing 13.1% of the class. Four other campuses that used preferences did so more sparingly, amounting to 1% to 3.6% of the admitted class in fall 2022. Their data is not broken down by alumni and donor-only connections in the Assn. of California’s independent colleges and universities report to the state.

Stanford has not yet taken a position on Ting’s legislation, campus spokesperson Dee Mostofi said. She said Stanford uses a holistic admissions process that considers legacy status as one of many factors in enrolling students who contribute “diversity of thought, background, identity and experience.”

Stanford students received $3.2 million in Cal Grant aid for 2022-2023, Mostofi said, compared to $263 million in total institutional aid. She added that in recent years the campus has expanded support for lower- and middle-income students, including full tuition coverage for students with family incomes up to $150,000. Additional help


covers room and board for people with a household income of $100,000 or less. In 2018, Stanford removed home equity from its financial aid calculations.

USC has also not taken a position on Ting’s legislation. Last year, USC said in a statement that it is strongly committed to diversity, admitting 1 in 5 students who are low-income or the first in their families to attend college. The campus subsequently said that all admitted students met high academic standards and were assessed in a holistic process that ‘valued’


the lived experience of each student, considers how they will contribute to the vibrancy of our campus, thrive in our community, benefit from a USC education, and fulfill the commitments of our unifying values.

Santa Clara University did not provide answers to questions.

According to state data, 2,972 USC students received $26.6 million in financial aid from Cal Grant in 2021-2022. According to the California Student Aid Commission, 507 students in Santa Clara received nearly $4.6 million.

Such funding could be at risk if Ting’s bill passes. The Assn. of independent California colleges and universities had opposed his earlier bill because it could deprive low-income students of necessary financial aid.

Ting said campuses that continue old admissions “have sufficient funds to continue offering scholarships to those students, and they should offer scholarships to the students.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action and new research have changed the national climate around legacy withdrawals, which could increase the legislation’s chances of passage compared to a failed attempt in 2019, Ting said.

That earlier bill was later amended to require private institutions to annually report their legacy withdrawal data to the state and was signed into law.

Ting noted that a Harvard study last fall found that old admissions were a major factor in why Ivy League and other elite universities were more than twice as likely to admit students from high-income families, those in the top 1% who earned more than $611,000, compared to less-affluent peers with similar standardized test scores.

Legacy applicants were admitted at higher rates at all levels of parental income, but the biggest boost was given to those from families in the top 1% of income earners, who were five times as likely to be admitted to the eight Ivy League campuses, along with According to the study, these are the University of Chicago, Duke, MIT and Stanford.

The findings were “quite shocking, even to me, who clearly knew that people at higher income levels get an advantage,” Ting said.

Just days after the Supreme Court’s positive ruling, three civil rights organizations filed a complaint against Harvard with the U.S. Department of Education. The groups alleged that Harvard’s preferential policies for students related to alumni or donors overwhelmingly benefit white students at the expense of students of color.

transgress and transgress

federal law prohibiting racial discrimination.

The complaint alleged that nearly 70% of Harvard applicants with family ties to donors or alumni are white and are approximately six times more likely to be admitted than other applicants.

Sophie Callott, a senior Stanford student, said Wednesday that the inheritance was included in her admission because she is the daughter of two Stanford alumni, but she wants the practice to end.

“I don’t want my achievements to be overshadowed or questioned by the possibility that I only got into Stanford because my parents went there,” she said at the news conference. “I also recognize that abolishing legacy admissions is a critical step in moving toward fair admissions and higher education across the board.”


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