Youngkin signs bill gutting legacy admissions in Virginia public colleges


Friday, March 8, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a bill prohibiting public colleges in Virginia from considering legacy and donor status in admissions procedures. 

In 2023, approximately 8% of the enrolled class at the College were legacy students. In a report provided to the board of visitors in the fall of 2023, the College stated that the SAT scores and high school GPA of legacy students fell within the range of the entire admitted group and were only considered in admissions decisions when all other factors were determined to be equal between applicants. 

Moreover, the College considers an applicant’s propensity to enroll once admitted, and legacy students were found to be more than twice as likely to enroll at the College, compared to non-legacy students who never visited the campus. 

In an email to The Flat Hat, the College of William and Mary’s Undergraduate Admission Office supplied their definition of the term legacy applicant.

“William & Mary considers an applicant’s familial relationship with the university, commonly referred to as ‘legacy status,’ in alignment with the institution’s admission policies (see policy on p. 8). As originally approved in 1973 and revised in 1978 by the Board of Visitors, those policies affirm ‘application for admission to [William & Mary] is open to all, acceptance to be decided on a competitive basis within the framework of certain concepts, balances and constraints,’” the email read.

The College does not predict any substantial changes to its admissions procedures following this legislation. Yet they confirmed they will review their processes to ensure that they comply with the newly-passed bill.

William & Mary does not currently have a separate admission process or standard for legacy applicants, and our data confirms that the academic profile of admitted legacy applicants is very high and consistent with our overall admitted class,” said the College in an official statement on the undergraduate admission’s website.

In 2023, the median GPA of admitted legacy students was 4.38, as compared to 4.42 for non-legacy students. Similarly, the median SAT score of admitted legacy students was 1450, as opposed to 1470 for their non-legacy counterparts.

In an email to The Flat Hat, Student Assembly Secretary of Diversity Initiatives Oscar Lazo ’25 shared his thoughts on the bill.

“I am unapologetically in support of the bill,” Lazo wrote. “As a first-generation student, the college application process slams us with endless trials, troubles, and tribulations for the simple chance of getting to attend an institution of higher learning. While it would be a dream for my children to also attend William & Mary, I would like for them to receive an offer of admission based on their merit. William & Mary’s motto of ‘You Belong’ should be accessible to all. First-generation students and students with or without parents who attended William & Mary should all be granted admission under the same expectation of merit, not connections.”

Lazo commented on how he thinks the bill may affect the College and its prospective applicants.

“I believe that students who are suited for William & Mary will ultimately find their way here. In terms of university admissions in general, I believe it will have very little impact on the process,” Lazo wrote. 

Lazo also serves as the undergraduate representative for the Arts and Sciences committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and works with faculty to manage the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court Affirmative Action decision of June 29, 2023’s effects on the College.

“The bill is equitable, fair, and inclusive for all students in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Lazo added. “It ensures that everyone, especially after the dismantling of Affirmative Action, has equal access to an education. William & Mary has and will continue to, bring in a diverse, vibrant community of learners, and this bill will reinforce that.”

Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Tim Wolfe ’95, M.Ed. ’01, manages all undergraduate applications sent to the College, shared his thoughts on the new bill in an email to The Flat Hat.

“While we will need some time to review this legislation thoroughly, we do not anticipate this legislation having a significant impact on our process,” Wolfe wrote.

According to an executive summary document provided by the Undergraduate Admission Office, the department details its reasons for considering legacy status in the past.

“Reflecting a higher propensity to enroll, the yield rate for admitted students who are legacy is more than double that for a general applicant,” the document states. “Within a competitive process open to all, W&M is aware of legacy status in admission decisions. As specified in Board-approved policy, that status may apply when other considerations are essentially equal.”

Student Assembly President Sydney Thayer ’24 said while the bill may disallow legacy admissions, she believes that the College will be able to attract students with legacy status regardless.

In my view, this bill helps to ensure a level playing field in the college admissions process. While every student’s circumstances are different, legacy admissions has a history of giving an advantage to students who already come from a more privileged background given that other members of their family have had the opportunity to attend college,” Thayer wrote in an email to The Flat Hat.


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