The threat – which includes withholding federal money – comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Students for Fair Admissions' favor earlier this year. In the group's case against Harvard, the justices said a prospective student "must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race."
"I would be interested in pulling whatever levers I can pull as secretary of Education to ensure that, especially if we're giving out financial aid and loans, that we're doing it for institutions that are providing value," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona (pictured above) told the Associated Press last week.
Legacy admissions – or giving admissions preference to the children of alumni and donors – have long been seen as a perk for the white and wealthy at select colleges, and they have come under renewed fire since the high court ruled in June that colleges can no longer consider the race of applicants.
By banning affirmative action but allowing legacy preferences, critics say the court has left admissions even more lopsided against students of color.
But Nicholas Giordano, a political science professor, podcast host, and fellow at Campus Reform's Higher Education Fellowship, says this is more weaponization of government to strongarm institutions into doing what Biden's administration wants.
"If colleges want to move away from legacy admissions on their own, that's fine," he says. "What makes this so different is you have the government of the United States overtly threatening schools and forcing them to make a policy all because they lost a Supreme Court case when it comes to race-based admissions."
Giordano asserts that the Department of Education will not do anything to liberal schools with children of liberal donors. More conservative schools with more conservative students will be the targets.