Most Americans are aware of the high academic records required for acceptance to the nation’s top schools. In fact, for a long time, the only way to get in without stellar academics is to have alumni as family members. Most Ivy Leagues and prominent research universities promote keeping an alumni legacy within the family by providing highly-discounted, if not completely free, tuition to children of former graduates.
However, as the academic industry continues to move toward a more level playing field, some universities are beginning to change these tried-and-true policies. For example, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge has recently cut a financial aid program that provided very generous scholarships to alumni children.
According to an Inside Higher Ed article covering the decision, LSU found it to be "inappropriate to give alumni children an edge in earning scholarships that may be needed by others based on financial circumstances or earned based on academic merit," especially in trying economic times. Up until now, LSU offered coverage of about 75% of the entire tuition costs for any student who qualified for an alumni scholarship, regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency. The only thing an alumni child needed to qualify for the scholarship was a high enough GPA or ACT score to be admissible to the university. This means legacy children needed only a GPA of 3.0 and ACT score of 22 in order to receive almost full tuition, while most of the university’s merit scholarships required an ACT score of at least 28. And most merit scholarships were smaller awards than legacy scholarships.
"It was a good program, but it was just too expensive and there wasn’t any connection to merit," Kurt Keppler, vice chancellor for student life and enrollment services at LSU, told Inside Higher Ed. According to the article, Keppler stated that he still welcomes all alumni children, but finds it troubling to dole out such large grants to students who do not merit the awards from academics or financial need. According to the article, "there were a lot of these students who were, for lack of a better term, ‘average’ in terms of our pool of applicants," Keppler said.
Although LSU alumni have been disappointed by the change, the university maintains the savings will be worth it compared to the amount of alumni children they may lose in the process. LSU estimates savings in the millions, while only a few hundred alumni children may not have enrolled due to the change. The extra funds from the former legacy program will go toward other financial aid programs based on academic merit and financial need.
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