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Money Matters
Family Tree, Oberlin roots
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[cover story] Fury and the Sound
David Rees Gets His (Bleep) On
Around Tappan Square
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One More Thing
Inside Oberlin
Staff Box

The Legacy Preference
by Mathew Vella '03

Take a look at the members of Oberlin's Class of 2006 and their alumni parents

A core group of legacy students reinforces Oberlin's academic culture and value system from generation to generation, says Alumni Association Director Midge Wood Brittingham '60. "Having a child attend Oberlin increases the parent's involvement and demonstrates the continuing excellence of the College."

Given that, to what extent should colleges go to attract legacies?

President Bush's strong anti-affirmative action stance in the University of Michigan's Supreme Court case has been met with criticism. In arguments leveled directly at Bush, critics have cast legacies as an alternative form of unethical preferencing by college admissions offices. Now that the Court is considering whether minority applicants are taking the rightful spots of more qualified whites, some supporters of race-conscious admissions are mounting a counteroffensive. They hold that it is the preferential treatment afforded some applicants because of their parents' wealth or college affiliation that is truly unfair.

In recent years, the large public university systems of Georgia and California have dropped preferences for legacies and other VIP applicants. No highly selective private college has followed suit, however, in large part because the economic benefit of admitting such students is so great.

At Oberlin, says Associate Director of Admissions Leslie Braat, "a legacy applicant may benefit through the admissions process if that student is 'on the bubble' between an acceptance and the decision to waitlist, meaning that we would probably admit. But someone who is inadmissible in our applicant pool would not be extended an offer of admission solely because of a legacy status."

Legacies represent 4 to 5 percent of Oberlin's entering class annually, a figure consistent with other small liberal arts colleges, says Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Debra Chermonte. "Our office engages in several activities to reach out to prospective students with legacy ties," she says.

"We begin each admissions cycle soliciting alumni referrals of prospective students--especially those with Oberlin family roots." Throughout the year, admissions officers arrange campus visits for legacy students and their parents; the office also hosts college planning workshops during Reunion Weekend each spring.

Although legacy numbers among new Oberlin students last fall were down by five in comparison to 39 in 2001, this year's crop is rich in tradition. At least two first-year students have second-generation ties to the College, and three have had family members trickle in on an almost steady basis since the early 1920s.


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