State Watch

Colorado governor signs law banning state-supported colleges from considering legacies in admissions

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State-supported colleges in Colorado are no longer allowed to consider an applicant’s legacy status in college admissions decisions, according to a state bill signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis (D) this week. 

The legislation, which Polis officially approved during a signing ceremony on Tuesday, states that considering whether a student has familial relationships with alumni of a state higher education institution “is discriminatory in nature and hurts students who are undocumented, first-generation, immigrants, or underrepresented minorities and who do not have the same relationships to Colorado higher education institutions.” 

The bill also notes the “significant racial and socioeconomic disparities among students who enroll in higher education institutions” in Colorado, adding that “roughly 63% of White students in Colorado and 67% of middle- to high-income students enroll in a bachelor’s degree program directly from high school. Conversely, only 42% of Latino students and 47% of low-income students enroll in a bachelor’s degree program directly from high school.”

One of the bill’s sponsors, state Rep. Kyle Mullica (D), said in remarks at the ceremony that Colorado is the first state to enact a policy of this kind. 

Polis on Tuesday said the law “makes sure that just because your parent or grandparent went to one of our colleges in Colorado, that doesn’t mean that you automatically get in,” arguing that this “could take the spot from somebody who is more worthy of that spot.” 

“In a Colorado for all, this bill will help move us in a direction where our higher education institutions are moving towards being meritocracies, meaning that you have to earn admission because of who you are, what you can do and what your potential is, not who your parents or grandparents were,” the governor said. 

Mullica, a first-generation college student himself, said Tuesday that Colorado has made itself a “leader in the country” on removing familial relationships from college admissions decisions, adding that he hopes private institutions in the state will follow suit. 

Private colleges across the country have begun eliminating legacy preferences as a factor in college admissions, including Johns Hopkins University, which announced its policy change last year. 

Other schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, the University of Georgia and Texas A&M University also do not consider legacy status in the admissions process. 

Polis on Tuesday also signed into law legislation that says that while state colleges may accept SAT, ACT and other standardized test scores in their admissions process, they are not required to consider them. 

The law comes amid a growing trend of schools dropping the tests in admissions requirements. State lawmakers who sponsored the Colorado bill said it will further level the playing field for students who may not perform as well on standardized tests or may not have access to testing sites and preparation materials. 

Tags college admissions College and universities Colorado Higher education Jared Polis SAT scores standardized testing State school

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