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MA lawmakers propose taxing college legacy admissions

Rummell _Richard_Harvard_University_1906_watercolor_WikipediaCommons
Harvard University, pictured here in Richard Rummell's 1906 watercolor landscape, would pay the most if a Massachusetts tax bill tied to students who get in based on family connections is enacted. (Image Courtesy of Arader Galleries via Wikipedia Commons)

Following the Supreme Court's ruling that effectively ends affirmative action in college admissions, a proposal by two Massachusetts state lawmakers is getting a lot of attention.

Their bill would tax rich colleges in the Bay State, including Harvard, whose policies were the basis of the high court decision, and put the money into a trust to fund community colleges is getting a lot of attention.

Dubbed "an Act to advance fairness, integrity, and excellence in higher education admissions," the bill targets the state's schools that offer legacy admissions. This is giving preferences to applicants whose parents attended the college.

However, the proposal by Rep. Simon Cataldo and Sen. Pavel M. Payano was introduced in the Massachusetts legislature on Jan. 19. That day the two Democrats filed a joint petition, accompanied by House Bill No. 3760.

Ten of their fellow legislators signed on as cosponsors of the measure, which is pending in the Joint Committee on Higher Education.

Richest schools would pay most: The tax could be based on a threshold of current endowment value per student.

Cambridge-based Harvard, for example, would be assessed an estimated $103 million a year. That's the largest fee, since the university, with its $50.1 billion endowment, is the richest in the United States.

"The schools could not simultaneously defend race-conscious affirmative action – which benefitted historically disadvantaged minorities — while also insisting on maintaining admissions policies that elevated the chances of generationally wealthy applicants above those very groups that race-conscious affirmative action was meant to help," Cataldo, a former teacher, told Bloomberg/Fortune magazine.

That article has more on the bill, as does a piece from FT.com.

And, like the Massachusetts lawmakers who anticipated the Supreme Court's ruling and its potential effects in other areas of college admissions, PBS Newshour in May devoted an episode of its Rethinking College series to the legacy students' debate.

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