Sen. Ted Kennedy wants universities to report the family income and race of “legacy” students who may have gotten a boost from alumni relatives. Good idea, writes Stuart Taylor. But also disclose the family income and academic qualifications of other beneficiaries of preferential admissions, such as athletes and recruited minorities. And report the graduation rates.
Under affirmative action, some minorities with much lower grades and test scores are admitted to elite universities, writes Taylor. Yet, “according to a study of 28 highly selective colleges by two leading supporters of preferences, some 85 percent of preferentially admitted minorities are from middle- and upper-class families.”
One benefit of disclosure might be to dissuade universities from using double standards so blatant — whether for legacies, athletes, or racial minorities — as to offend voters. A second benefit might be to focus attention on the real crisis in minority education: The average black 17-year-old is academically less prepared for college than the average white or Asian 8th-grader. A third benefit might be to shame elite universities into seeking more needy and working-class students, who are far more underrepresented than blacks and Hispanics. Such “economic preferences” are widely popular because — if carefully designed — they are consistent with traditional concepts of merit.
Alumni children don’t get much of a boost these days, and often don’t need it. Children of well-educated parents tend to do well in school. The elite schools are much less willing to take mediocre students like Ted Kennedy (Harvard) and George W. Bush (Yale).