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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

College Legacy Admissions Are Unfair

August 13, 2004

In his commentary on legacy admissions at elite universities, Adam B. Kushner makes some interesting points about the importance of alumni donations in improving diversity (Commentary, Aug. 11). However, he neglects to consider the size of elite college endowments compared with tuition.

Does Harvard University, with an endowment of $19 billion, really require another $10,000 alumni donation to provide financial aid to deserving but disadvantaged students?

Brad Kreit

Washington

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Kushner argues that the legacy preference in college admissions is a necessary evil because it encourages alumni to make large donations in the hope that they can buy spots for their children.

Those funds then subsidize the tuition of needy students. This is, indeed, a noble goal. But why limit the market to alumni? If schools gave preferences to children of all donors, regardless of alma mater, the price for a spot would be driven up, raising more money and funding more scholarships.

Noah Meyerson

Washington

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I could not disagree more with Kushner's defense of preferential admissions for "legacies." That such legacies represent 10% of the student body at these schools is a slap in the face to every talented, hardworking child from a blue-collar or immigrant background. They favor rich, elite, overwhelmingly white children of privilege who gain admission over more deserving applicants.

Kushner's defense of this aristocratic favoritism amounts to nothing more than the hope that the rich parents of these legacies will donate a few more dollars, some of which might trickle down as financial aid for poorer students. Surely there are other ways to entice donations from alumni.

We are a society that tolerates great gaps between the rich and poor based upon the justification that the children of the poor will have a fair opportunity to close that gap. Preferential admissions for legacies is a betrayal of that promise.

Evan Gerstmann

Los Angeles

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