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Susan Dynarski acknowledges admissions privileges for "rich White legacy kids"

March 20, 2019

In “Elite college admissions scandal shows irony of affirmative action complaints,” HuffPost writer Sarah Ruiz-Grossman discusses how the recent college admissions bribery scam sheds a different light on the perceived “unfair advantage” of affirmative action.


Critics of affirmative action policies―which allow institutions of higher education to account for an applicant’s race or ethnicity to a certain extent when considering admission―claim that the policies give an unfair advantage to nonwhite students. However, the HuffPost article explains that there are already many legal ways in which access to higher education is structured to benefit wealthy, white students over others. Affirmative action is intended to correct for inequalities like these when it comes to access to higher education admission due to race.

Among the experts quoted in the article is Professor Susan Dynarski. She states that the point of affirmative action “is to try to counter the enormous inequities that hold back these kids all the way through elementary, high school―they’re given a small boost at college entry. It’s not anywhere near the advantage given to legacy students.”

“This scandal is just the extreme, the illegal extreme,” she adds, “but it’s in a continuum with legacy admissions, with Jared Kushner, with all these other thumbs on the scale that wealthy kids get that are legal. There’s a lot more kids at elite colleges because their parents are rich than because they’re brown or black,” she says. 

The larger question, she suggests, has to do with evaluating who receives privileges during the admissions process. “Who’s getting the thumb on the scale?” Dynarski says. “Largely it’s not low-income or brown or black kids, it’s wealthy kids. ... If you look around a college campus and you’re thinking about who got in because of a thumb on the scale, it’s the rich white legacy kids.”


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