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Kaine & Young Applaud Enactment of Legislation to End Legacy Admissions in Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) released the following statement after legislation to end legacy admissions became law in Virginia. The legislation mirrors the senators’ bipartisan Merit-Based Educational Reforms and Institutional Transparency Act (MERIT Act), which would end the practice of colleges and universities giving preferential treatment in the admissions process based on an applicant’s relationship to alumni or donors of the deciding institution.

“When we introduced the MERIT Act, we hoped the legislation would encourage states and higher education institutions to take the initiative to ban legacy and donor admissions too. We’re happy to see Virginia make this move. Now let’s build off this success and get our bill passed to end legacy and donor admissions preferences nationwide. This will promote upward mobility and fairness in the admissions process.” 

Additional background information on the MERIT Act

  • Under the MERIT Act, “preferential treatment” is defined as making admissions decisions or providing benefits based on an applicant’s relationship with alumni or donors as the “determinative factor.”
  • The bill clarifies that the new standard shouldn’t be construed to prevent institutions from considering an applicant’s genuine interest in the institution as part of the admissions process.
  • The bill ensures that religious institutions can make admissions decisions in line with their faith-based values, ensuring no infringement on religious freedom.
  • The bill requires a comprehensive feasibility study to assess improving data collection regarding the influence of legacy and donor relationships on admissions decisions.
  • Since 2015, over 100 colleges and universities have ended legacy preferences, but 787 still used the practice in 2020, according to a report from the nonprofit Education Reform Now. 

Full text of the legislation is available here.