Bills banning legacy admissions clear both Virginia chambers

A woman wearing a college graduation cap (via MD Duran on Unsplash)

Legislation banning Virginia’s public colleges and universities from providing special treatment in admissions decisions to students related to alumni and donors is on track to head to Gov. Glenn Youngkin later this session.

On Tuesday, the Virginia House joined the Senate in passing the proposal on a unanimous vote. Both bills, which are identical, must now pass in the opposite chambers before they are sent to the governor for his approval.

Youngkin spokesman Christian Martinez has signaled the governor is likely to sign the measures.

“The governor will review any legislation that comes to his desk, but believes admission to Virginia’s universities and colleges should be based on merit,” he said.

The proposed ban comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ended affirmative action at higher education institutions nationwide in June. Since the court’s ruling that race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina were unconstitutional, schools in the commonwealth have begun changing their admissions policies.

A study by think tank Education Reform Now found “most beneficiaries of legacy preferences are white.” It also identified Virginia as one of five states where a majority of public colleges and universities offer admissions advantages to the children of alumni.

“All that House Bill 48 says is that in considering admissions to college and our public universities here in the commonwealth of Virginia, whether your parents went there or whether your parents are donors to the institution will play no role in deciding who is accepted to the college,” said Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, who is carrying the House bill, during a subcommittee meeting earlier this month.

Both Democrats and Republicans have supported the change.

“I think it’s absolutely discriminatory to grant special privileges to people based on what their parents did, what they gave, where they went to college,” said Del. Thomas Garrett, R-Goochland, at the same meeting.

Garrett said he’s supporting the proposal to “address discrimination and create a level playing field for all Virginians.”

Last week, the Senate version of the bill, patroned by Sen. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Richmond, also passed with unanimous support.

Education Reform Now says more than 100 colleges and universities have ended legacy admissions since 2015, but 787 still used the practice as of 2020.

Photo via MD Duran on Unsplash. This article was reported and written by the Virginia Mercury, and has been reprinted under a Creative Commons license.