- Brown University will review its admissions practices related to early decision and legacy applicants, as well as consider if it should require entrance exam scores or continue its test-optional policy.
- Christina Paxson, president of the Ivy League institution, told the campus Wednesday that the university formed a committee to consider changes to its admissions policies.
- The committee — which includes Brown administrators, trustees and faculty members — will make recommendations before the spring term next year. Any changes to the university’s practices would take effect before next year’s admissions cycle.
Brown has continually assessed its admissions practices over the past few years amid nationwide debates around college access, Paxson said in a public letter announcing the committee. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling against race-conscious admissions broadly amplified concerns about admissions preferences.
“There is intense interest among policymakers, the public at large, and our own students and alumni in ensuring that admissions practices are as fair and equitable as possible,” Paxson said.
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, criticism has amped up on legacy preferences, in which colleges give an admissions edge to their alumni’s relatives. Research shows these practices favor White and wealthy applicants.
Several selective colleges have recently announced they are abandoning the practice, including Carleton College, in Minnesota, and Wesleyan University, in Connecticut. In Carleton’s case, roughly 6% to 9% of admitted class members have a parent who went to the college, President Alison Byerly said in the announcement.
“We do recognize that this change may be disappointing to alumni with children who will soon be reaching college age, especially alumni of color who are better represented in today’s parental cohorts than was the case decades ago,” Byerly said.
Student advocates have decried legacy preferences at other top-ranked colleges. And in July, the U.S. Department of Education started investigating whether such practices at Harvard University amount to racial discrimination.
Criticism has also mounted against early decision, which binds applicants to enroll if they’re admitted. Early decision applicants do not know how much financial aid they will receive before committing, and so wealthy students are more likely to apply to colleges through this avenue.
At many selective colleges, early decision applicants have a sizable advantage over regular decision applicants. Brown’s committee will review its data on admitted students who applied early and via regular decision, according to its announcement.
The university will also look at the impact of its decision to use test-optional admissions, which it switched to for the 2020-21 cycle. Like other colleges, Brown adopted the policy as the coronavirus pandemic forced common testing sites to close.
Many colleges have retained those policies even as pandemic restrictions have eased. More than 1,900 colleges are not requiring standardized test scores for students entering college in fall 2024, according to a July tally from FairTest.
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