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Bills to end legacy college admissions get broad support

Republicans and Democrats are standing together in a rare moment of bipartisan agreement to ditch legacy admissions to colleges and universities.

"I don't think that many people realize that legacy admissions were responsible for more students getting in than affirmative action was," says the sponsor of one of the bills, Senator Schuyler VanValkenburg. "You look at a college like Virginia that in 2020 and 2021, 11% of its freshman body was legacy admissions and 9% were African American. So if you want to talk about what's really unfair, it's those with privilege being able to get access to universities rather than the citizenry as a whole."

Through a spokesman, the governor says he believes admission to Virginia's institutions of higher education should be based on merit, a signal that he may be willing to sign the bill.

But Delegate Dan Helmer, a Democrat from Fairfax County, says it’s a mistake for him to dismiss the importance of affirmative action.

"It is a real shame when the privileged who have leveraged their privilege to help their families insert politics into something that we all agree on," according to Helmer 

When asked if he was talking about the governor being privileged and wealthy, he responded "Yes."

The bill also prohibits colleges and universities from granting admission based on donor status. The governor could sign the legislation as soon as this month.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.