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Goodbye to ‘legacies’? A new CA bill takes aim at one form of preferential admissions

A student walks near Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA on April 23, 2012.
A student walks near Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA on April 23, 2012.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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Yesterday, California lawmakers introduced a package of bills meant to reform the college admissions process and close backdoors for the kids of rich or connected parents. This comes on the heels of the college admissions scandal.

One of the bills, introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), takes aim at legacy admissions by setting a new standard for schools to qualify to receive the Cal Grant Program. To receive Cal Grant dollars, a university would have to stop “giving preferential treatment in admission to an applicant with a relationship to a donor or alumni of the institution.” While many of the other bills introduced yesterday impact the public universities in California, Assemblymember Ting’s AB 697 would also affect private universities.

For universities, legacy admissions can be a financial boon -- a way to strengthen relationships with alumni and donors by building family allegiance to a single school. And while it shouldn’t be the sole reason that a student receives an acceptance letter, many schools might shirk at the financial fallout of completely nixing family ties from the admissions equation.

We discuss with Assemblymember Phil Ting, as well as someone who worked in university gifts planning and development.

What financial role do legacy admissions play in a school’s budget? How much weight do schools give to legacy admissions? And how could this prohibition be enforced? 


Phil Ting, California Assembly member (D-San Francisco) who currently represents the 19th Assembly District, which encompasses western San Francisco and northern San Mateo County; he is the author of AB 697, which would bar Cal Grant funding from schools that give admissions preference to “legacy” students

Gary Dicovitsky, a consultant who specializes in finding donors and alumni for charitable institutions; he previously led development at Pomona and Caltech, oversaw the gifts planning programs at Princeton and University of Virginia and worked in gifts planning at Dartmouth College, where he also worked in admissions and as an athletics coach