DFER NY Joins Sen. Gounardes & Assemblywoman Walker to Ban College Admissions that Favor the Wealthy


March 9, 2022

DFER NY Joins Sen. Gounardes & Assembly Member Walker to Ban College Admissions that Favor Wealthy Students

New legislation to prohibit legacy, early admissions policies in higher education

NEW YORK, N.Y. (March 9, 2022)—Democrats for Education Reform New York (DFER NY) Director Jacquelyn Martell joined New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker today to unveil The Fair College Admissions Act, aimed at banning the legacy preference and binding early college admission policies sponsors say discriminate against racial minority, working class, and low-income students.

Approximately 50 New York State colleges provide legacy students—applicants who are descendants of alumni—an admissions preference. Almost one-third additionally provide an admission boost to those who apply early and commit to attend prior to seeing a financial aid package.

At top 30 universities, legacy students have a 45% greater chance of being admitted than equally qualified non-legacy students, while early decision applicants comprise up to 50% of the class at top schools, with an applicant pool that is more than three times as white as the regular decision applicant pool.

“Getting into the college of your choice should be a matter of ability and hard work. It should not be based on one’s family connections or ability to accept an offer without knowing about financial aid options,” said Sen. Gounardes. “That’s why Assembly Member Walker and I plan to end inequitable admissions policies with the Fair College Admissions Act. And for schools that persist with exclusionary admissions practices, our bill would assess penalties that would be used to support college affordability that are open and inclusive to all, further contributing to the economic success and mobility that all New Yorkers deserve.”

The new legislation will be enforced by charging a penalty to any institutions who do not follow the law, with the revenue from any penalties earmarked for low-income students statewide.

Recent polling from Public Policy Polling, commissioned by DFER NY partner education Reform Now Advocacy, found New York City voters favor banning the legacy preference by a near two-to-one margin (56% v. 30%) and discouraging early decision by the nearly the same (54% v. 35%).

“New York colleges should fairly provide a pathway of opportunity for all students, not serve as a gatekeeper for those already facing the greatest obstacles,” said DFER NY’s Martell. “I am proud to join with Senator Gounardes and Assembly member Walker in their push to make New York the first state in the nation to call for an end to both of these unjust policies.”

“The legacy preference and binding early decision are essentially affirmative action policies for the wealthy,” said Michael Dannenberg, vice president for higher education at Education Reform Now who first began working on the issue as aide to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). “Admission to college should be based on qualifications of an applicant, not who their parents are or how much money they have. The New York legislation offers a national model for how states can tackle unfair admissions policies and hold colleges accountable for making a meaningful commitment to diversity and opportunity.”

You can view the full legislation here, as well as additional quotes from supporters below.

“For too long students from well-connected and wealthy families have benefitted from their privilege in the college admissions process while first-generation and low-income students lose out,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16). “As a former educator I believe that education should disrupt inequality, not perpetuate it, and that is exactly why I have been fighting at the federal level to ban legacy admissions. The legislation introduced by New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assembly Member Latrice Walker supports our efforts to address unequitable admissions practices by prohibiting legacy preference and early decision policies at colleges and universities across New York State. Together, we must continue working to support our students and ensure equity in education.”

“Legacy admissions are inherently unfair; promising students are hurt by this policy,” said Claire Tempelman, student advocate at Cornell University. “It’s a relic of an earlier time and goes against values of justice and merit. As a representative of students at Cornell I know my peers are against this policy despite having the most to gain from it. When our Student Assembly passed a unanimously supported resolution to end the legacy preference, Cornell’s president vetoed us. It is time these institutions and the states that support them listen to students.”

Chara Abiah Lyons, New York City Public Schools alumna and Dartmouth College college student, said, “I applied through binding early decision to Dartmouth. Now I am transferring to another school and wish I had had more options as a college applicant. The pressures of affordability pushed me to Early Decision along with a lack of resources in my school and family. This bill will make sure every student has options.”


About DFER NY 
DFER NY Political Action Committee committed to advancing educational equity for New York’s students. DFER-NY has recently worked to advance teacher diversification legislation, reduce the cost of broadband internet access for families, and increase funding for public charter schools. It is the partner organization of Education Reform Now Advocacy New York, a 501(c)4 advocacy organization that funds and supports legislative and political advocacy, and the affiliate organization of Education Reform Now New York, a 501(c)(3) non-partisan, nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization that promotes increased resources and innovative reforms in K-16 public education, particularly for low-income students and students of color. DFER NY is a chapter of the national organization, Democrats for Education Reform.