U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he was open to using whatever means available to dissuade colleges from giving preferential admissions to the children of wealthy donors and alumni.
Mr. Cardona, in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, was asked about the possibility of using federal funds as either a carrot or rod on legacy admissions practices.
“I would be interested in pulling whatever levers I can pull as secretary of Education to ensure that, especially if we’re giving out financial aid and loans, that we’re doing it for institutions that are providing value,” Mr. Cardona said.
“For decades, our nation’s most elite universities have given preferences to the children of alumni, faculty and staff, athletes, and notably, substantial donors,” the group said. “The elimination of these preferences is long overdue, and SFFA hopes that these opinions will compel higher education institutions to end these practices.”
Like some Democrat lawmakers, Mr. Cardona criticized universities for giving preferences to legacy admits.
“Your last name could get you into a school, or the fact that you can write a check could get you into a school,” Mr. Cardona said.
However, Mr. Cardona did not voice support for legislative proposals banning legacy admission. He said universities should have the final say on the issue.
“There is no edict coming from the secretary of Education,” Mr. Cardona said.
In August, Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote a letter asking Mr. Cardona to take several actions to end legacy and donor preference.
“Providing resources to colleges and universities to support their transitions away from legacy and donor preference,” one of the requests says in the letter. “Aggressively pursuing investigations of complaints regarding legacy and donor preference and other admissions policies that provide preferential treatment.”
Without action, Mr. Cardona warned that the nation could experience the same setbacks that Califonia had to deal with after the state ended affirmative action in 1996.
“If we go the route that California went when they abolished affirmative action, what chance do we have competing against China?” Cardona said. “This is more than just ensuring diverse learning environments. This is about our strength as a country.”
According to a 2022 Pew Research Insitute poll, 75 percent of Americans believed legacy admissions should not be a factor in admissions, up from 68 percent in 2019.
Republican presidential hopefuls Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have said that legacy admissions should end.