Amherst College will no longer consider previous family attendance in its admissions.
The small and renowned liberal arts school in Massachusetts has a total enrollment of fewer than 2,000 students. So-called “legacy” admissions make up about 11 percent of that school’s student body; first-generation students slightly outnumber them.
“It is time to end this historic practice of giving a preference on the basis of heredity,” said the school’s president, Biddy Martin, in a statement. In office since 2011, she will depart the role next year and return to teaching. Dr. Martin is also on the board of the Harvard Corporation, meaning her thinking and policies are influential.
Amherst can show the results of its theories around admissions. Unlike at many colleges, women do not outnumber men at Amherst, and, also unlike many private schools, it has nearly as many enrolled Hispanic and Latino students as it does Asian students.
Just before the pandemic, Johns Hopkins University announced it would end the consideration as well. Others have not yet followed. Legacies are a factor in admissions for lots of private schools, though rarely for public schools.
Leave Your Legacy is an activist effort that is recruiting alums to not give money to their colleges until they eliminate legacy admissions. The initiative’s founder attended Brown, which admits about one in ten legacies, like Amherst, though that institution has been far more defensive on the topic.
Amherst also said it would devote additional funds to increasing its ability to subsidize education.
Amherst valued its endowment at nearly $3 billion a year or two ago and now says its endowment is closer to $4 billion, since every person and institution with money made significantly more out of their money in the last year. It has recently ranked among the top-30 schools by endowment size in the United States.
Alums include David Foster Wallace, Dan Brown, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Calvin Coolidge (the president), and lots of people who work at the New York Times.