In an email sent to the college community on Oct. 20, President Biddy Martin announced that starting in the 2022-2023 academic year, the college will end its legacy admission preference — which confers an admissions advantage to children of alumni — as well as implement an expanded and simplified financial aid program.
Legacy preferences have long been a controversial aspect of the college’s admissions policy, with critics arguing that they exacerbate socioeconomic and racial inequities on campus. Nationally, the majority of selective private universities and most liberal arts colleges still practice legacy admissions, making Amherst one of the only institutions of its kind to abandon the practice.
Around 11 percent of each class year is comprised of legacy students. For the class of 2025, around 18 percent of first-year students were first-generation college students.
The new changes are part of continual efforts to make Amherst “the college we want to be — the created community that stands for opportunity and academic excellence,” wrote Martin. She outlined several components of the enhanced financial aid program, including greater transparency in the awarding of aid, more generous grants and scholarships, an increased amount of direct funding to cover student expenses, and a work-study expectation reduced to four hours per week from six hours.
According to a press release, the college will “increas[e] its commitment to student financial aid to $71 million per year” and, in so doing, “provide support for 60 percent of its students, among the highest proportion of any need-blind liberal arts college.”
“We want students who are considering Amherst to see that: 1) Amherst can be affordable for them; 2) their financial aid will not make loans a part of their aid package, allowing them to graduate without enormous debt; 3) they will have funding to help with necessities after they arrive; and 4) they need not have family connections to get in,” Martin added.
The changes were received positively by large swaths of the Amherst community, including students, alumni and faculty.
“Incredibly proud of my alma mater, @AmherstCollege, for taking this step towards equity in higher education. Hope other institutions follow suit,” tweeted Kayleigh O'Keeffe ’12 in response to the college’s move away from legacy admissions.
“As we celebrate our Bicentennial year, our goal is to look forward and make the policy changes and investments necessary to provide a great education, create a vibrant campus community, prepare students for lives of purpose and contribution, and continue building a multi-generational community that pays it forward,” Martin concluded in her email.
This article will be updated as more information is received.