Amherst College Drops Admission Benefit for Graduate Children


Matthew Kavanaugh for The Boston Globe, File

Amherst, Massachusetts (AP) — Amherst College will not give preferential admission to children of graduate students, the school announced Wednesday, ending a practice that has been criticized for giving an extra advantage to students from wealthy families.

The liberal arts college said it is dropping old admissions processes to create a fairer admissions system and to promote diversity on campus. In the past, the sons of alumni made up 11% of the college’s 1,700 incoming students. From now on, family status will not be considered in admission decisions.

Amherst president, Bede Martin, said the shift will make the school more accessible to more students, regardless of their financial background or family ties.

“Now is the time to end this historic program that inadvertently limits educational opportunities by giving preference to those whose parents graduate from college,” Martin said in a statement.

At selective colleges across the country, it is common for children of graduates to be given an advantage in the application process. Colleges defend the practice by saying it encourages alumni to donate and is only used as a tie-breaking factor in finer decisions.

But activists have called on colleges to end the practice in recent years, saying it reinforces class and racial inequality and creates an unequal playing field.

Amherst was among more than 30 schools targeted by a recent national campaign to boycott donations from alumni until their schools end old admissions. Other targets include Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown and Stanford universities.

In making the change, Amherst joins a small but growing number of colleges that have abandoned the practice. Last year, Johns Hopkins University announced it was ending the policy, and Colorado lawmakers have banned it at public universities this year. Some prestigious schools say they have not given preference to legacy, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Amherst said it is also expanding its financial aid to help more students from low- and middle-income families. About 60% of students are expected to receive financial aid, the college said, and the average home aid package is estimated at $63,000.

The annual cost of attending college is estimated to be approximately $85,000, including tuition and other fees.

Matthew McGann, the school’s dean of admissions and financial aid, said he hopes more students will see Amherst as an option moving forward. He said the college is confident that it will see an increase in diversity among applicants and on campus by dropping old admissions and boosting financial aid.

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