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Legacy preferences or legacy admission is a type of preference given by educational institutions to certain applicants on the basis of their familial relationship to alumni of that institution. (Students so admitted are referred to as legacies or legacy students.) There is a long history of this practice at American universities and colleges. The Ivy League institutions are estimated to admit 10% to 15% of each entering class based upon this factor.
Former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers has stated, "Legacy admissions are integral to the kind of community that any private educational institution is." In the 1998 book The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, authors William G. Bowen, former Princeton University president, and Derek Bok, former Harvard University president, found "the overall admission rate for legacies was almost twice that for all other candidates."
 Legacy preferences in comparison to other programmes
At some schools, legacy preferences have an effect on admissions comparable to other factors such as being a recruited athlete or affirmative action. One study of three selective private research universities in the United States showed the following effects (admissions disadvantage and advantage in terms of SAT points on the old 1600-point scale):
- Blacks: +230
- Hispanics: +185
- Asians: –50
- Recruited athletes: +200
- Legacies (children of alumni): +160
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Because private universities in U.S. rely heavily on the donation from alumni, critics argue that legacy preferences are a way to indirectly sell university placement. Opponents accuse these programs of perpetuating an oligarchy and plutocracy as they lower the weight of academic merit in admissions process in exchange of financial one. Another criticism is that the wealthy are given an insurmountable advantage which hinders economic mobility within the society.
However, some couple their stance on the two policies, either supporting or opposing both affirmative action and legacy preferences simultaneously. For example, the conservative former Regent of the University of California, Ward Connerly, opposes both affirmative action and legacy admissions. Some supporters of the elimination of all non-academic preferences also point out that many European universities, including highly selective institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge, do not use any racial, legacy, or athletic preferences in admissions decisions.
 See also
 Outside resources
- "Meritocracy in America", The Economist, December 29, 2004.
- "For Groton grads, Academics aren't the Only Keys to Ivy Schools", Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2003, by Daniel Golden.
- "Candidate opposes legacy places", The Daily Princetonian, February, 2003
- "Will Bush Truly Renounce Privilege in Admissions?", The Boston Globe
- "The Curse of Nepotism", The Economist, January 8, 2004.
- ^ Lexington | The curse of nepotism | Economist.com
- ^ Thomas J. Espenshade and Chang Y. Chung (June 2005), Study "The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities", SOCIAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY 86 (2), http://opr.princeton.edu/faculty/tje/espenshadessqptii.pdf Study
- ^ Larson, Carlton. “Titles of Nobility, Hereditary Privilege, and the Unconstitutionality of Legacy Preferences in Public School Admissions”, Washington University Law Review, Volume 84, page 1375 (2006).