Admission preferences for “legacies” with below-average grades and test scores may backfire, concludes a study by Princeton researchers. According to Chronicle of Higher Education, “legacies” “are far more likely than minority students or athletes to run into academic trouble in college if admissions preferences got them through the door.”
The farther a selective college lowers the bar for a given legacy applicant — as measured by the gap between that applicant’s grade-point average and the mean for that institution — the lower the grade-point average that the student is likely to earn, according to a paper written by the two researchers who conducted the study, Douglas S. Massey, a professor of sociology and public affairs, and Margarita Mooney, a postdoctoral fellow in Princeton’s Office of Population Research.
. . . The paper says the researchers found that students who had received extra consideration in admission because they are black, Hispanic, or athletes did not have the same academic problems as legacies, as measured by grades or retention rates, even if college policies of giving minority students and athletes extra consideration in admissions appeared to have some drawbacks.
But preference-receiving “legacies” earn higher grades than students admitted because of minority status or athletics, points out John Rosenberg on Discriminations.
“About 70 percent of athletes, 77 percent of black and Hispanic students, and just 48 percent of legacies had SAT scores below their institution’s average,” researchers found. On average, the legacy preference was worth 47 SAT points; athletes and black or Hispanic students received a boost of about 108 SAT points, the Chronicle reports.
On the whole, legacies fared better than the other two populations studied in terms of grades; their mean grade-point average at the end of two years of college was 3.26, compared with 3.12 for athletes and 3.05 for students categorized as black or Hispanic. In terms of their retention rates, legacies were in the middle: 5 percent of athletes, 7 percent of legacies, and 11 percent of black or Hispanic students had dropped out by the end of their junior year.
Rosenberg wonders why the preference is seen as harmful to legacies but OK for others. He also questions the theory that “social climate” — the perception that preference beneficiaries are less capable — depresses academic performance.
Gee, is everything a function of â€œsocial climateâ€? Couldnâ€™t the difficulty of students who are admitted to selective institutions with significantly lower academic qualifications than their non-preferred peers be caused by the simpler fact that they were not as prepared to do the work that is expected there?
There must be an apples and oranges problem here. (Only the abstract is online for free.)
My freshman year at Stanford, I roomed for a quarter with the daughter of major donors to the university. She did not appear to be very smart but it was hard to tell because of her heavy drug use. When she flunked out, I roomed with a Native American girl who had no money and no family support of any kind. She’d figured out early that education was her route out of a life she hated. She remains the hardest-working person I’ve ever met in my life. Years later, I ran into her ex-husband who told me she’d fulfilled her life goal: Get out of Dinuba. Stay out of Dinuba.