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U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia is hoping to advance bipartisan legislation in Congress this year that would make major changes in the college admissions process.
The Democratic lawmaker and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., are co-sponsors of a bill that would prohibit accredited colleges and universities from giving preferential treatment in admissions to children of alumni or those with ties to donors.
The legislation has been introduced in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year that struck down affirmative action policies in college admissions, stating that race can’t be a factor in whether to admit students.
“If the goal is put people on an even footing and have these decisions based on merit, then let’s close off the legacy and donor preferences that for decades have advantaged the ‘advantaged’ and let’s make merit the criteria,” Kaine said.
The MERIT Act would amend the Higher Education Act to add a new standard for accreditation, aimed at preventing “preferential treatment” in the admissions process.
The legislation would also require a detailed study to improve data collection regarding the influence of legacy and donor relationships in admissions decisions.
While dozens of universities have ended legacy practices, hundreds of others have continued to use them in the admissions process.
Kaine said the bill seeks to make the selections process fairer and ensure that first-generation or lower-income college applicants are not left at a disadvantage.
Research has shown that Ivy League colleges are twice as likely to admit students from high-income families than those from middle-class families with similar test scores.