When you think of inherited admissions preferences — for children of alumni — you might think of places like Harvard or Yale universities. These are places that admit students without inheritance status at rates well below 10%. The (few) colleges that have dropped legacy admissions in recent years—Amherst College, Johns Hopkins University—said they simply concluded the practice was not fair. Most private colleges with legacy admissions policies have retained those policies, even though they have come under increasing criticism.
McDaniel College also has a bequest policy, but it is different from the norm. McDaniel has 1,600 undergraduates, but it’s not hard to get into. The college admits between 73 and 76 percent of applicants, and the overwhelming majority of legacy applicants are admitted without any special assistance. (The college receives about 5,000 applications a year.)
A liberal arts college about 35 miles from Baltimore, McDaniel depends on completing its classes for the college’s financial health.
He started his legacy program not with children of alumni, but with children of educators, in 2017. McDaniel gives $30,000 a year for four years to anyone whose parents work at a K-school. -12 or in a community college. This accounts for about half of college tuition, room and board.
In 2019, it added two more legacy programs: for veterans/active-duty military and for veterans. They also receive $30,000 per year for four years.
In the fall, 58 students signed up for the educator program, 38 signed up for veterans, and 20 children of alumni signed up. Over the past three years, there have always been more children of educators than the other groups, followed by veterans and then children of former students.
The 116 students enrolled represent 21% of the incoming college class.
McDaniel has a discount rate of 67%, although this is somewhat inflated by the additional aid given in the first year of the pandemic.
Neither McDaniel nor critics of the old admissions programs know of any other colleges offering similar programs.
Janelle Holmboe, the college’s vice president for enrollment management, said educator legacy programs were launched before she was in college, “to recognize and honor” educators. She said McDaniel has long produced a large number of educators and the college wants to reach them, in addition to others who work for schools or community colleges. “Most of the aid goes to students who still don’t qualify for federal aid,” she said, and many of them don’t think they can afford a private college.
And she pointed out that the program is open to anyone who works in a school or community college. “We had children of cafeteria workers,” she said.
The college requires students to remain enrolled full-time and live on campus, but most students live on campus anyway, Holmboe said.
Holmboe said she wondered, as criticism of legacy programs from other colleges grew, if she would face a backlash. But so far, she hasn’t heard anything.
She says the college’s approach puts alumni’s contributions into context. They are important for college, but so are other things.
“This is about the service provided by educators, veterans and elders,” she said.
To attract more candidates, the college recruits from high schools in the region close to the college. Holmboe said the college always leaves flyers and then hears from people about the offer.
The program is actually a recruitment program, she said. There is “no doubt” in his mind that McDaniel is enrolling students who otherwise would not have applied.
Holmboe said she thought of her father when working on the program: he was a vice principal at a high school and had two daughters with college ambitions.
Legacy critics reaction
McDaniel may not have dealt with the backlash that worries Holmboe. But that seems to be because the programs aren’t known to the main critics of legacy admissions. Last month, a new bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would prohibit any college participating in federal student aid programs from offering admissions preferences to children of alumni or of donors.
Michael Dannenberg, vice president of strategic initiatives and higher education policy at Education Reform Now, said he applauds McDaniel for offering help to those whose parents work in education or higher education. army. But he said that did not justify helping the children of former students.
He said via email: “In terms of financial aid dedicated to the children of those who work in the civil service, which is a good thing, versus financial aid dedicated to the children of former students, which is a bad thing, it’s not like the former justifies the latter, but in truth, the latter is just another way that too many colleges choose to advantage those who are already advantaged.
Dannenberg continued, “Financial aid exclusively for legacy students, much like legacy preference in admissions, generally undermines diversity, fails to reward individual achievement, and diverts scarce resources from talented, working-class, and undergraduate students. the need. Colleges should stop doing both.
Last year, Viet Nguyen launched a group of young alumni who said they would not donate to their alma mater as long as they pursued legacy admissions.
Asked about the McDaniel program, he did not mention it. “We are excited about the proposed legislation in Congress to end inheritance and donor preferences and [I] I am actively working with states to do the same,” he said by email. “Legacy admissions perpetuate cycles of inequity and racism. We look forward to the day when family lineage plays no role in the college application process.