President Joe Biden has always touted the benefits of state universities and questioned the superiority of Ivy League colleges. Now, the University of Delaware alum has instructed the Education Department to conduct a civil rights investigation into Harvard’s legacy admissions process.

While on his 2020 campaign trail, Biden acknowledged that he would be the first president without an Ivy League degree since Ronald Reagan, who attended Eureka College.

“I went to the University of Delaware, and I was proud of it,” said Biden to a crowd in Toledo, Ohio. “Hard to get there, hard to get through in terms of money. But folks, since when can someone who went to a state university not be qualified to be president?”

He has not lost that sentiment since taking office and is now positioning himself as an opponent of elitist colleges and universities amid the early stages of the 2024 election cycle.


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Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that higher education institutions could no longer use affirmative action in their admissions processes, a decision that sparked outrage from Biden and other Democratic leaders. In the weeks that followed, Biden criticized the practice of legacy admissions as perpetuating a system that favors wealthy white applicants.

The probe into Harvard’s legacy admissions process will produce a report with proposals of what the government should do to combat the negative effects of the practice. While he will succeed in drawing media attention and establishing himself as a workingman’s candidate, many worry that his efforts are not addressing more important issues in the higher education system, such as rising tuition costs and increasing student debt.

Advocates for equitable education believe that the impacts of legacy admissions only hurt a few applicants to Ivy League universities. According to court documents, legacies make up less than 5% of Harvard’s applications, though about 30% are accepted each year.

Still, Biden’s fight against legacy admissions in elite institutions is generally supported by Democrats and Republicans. Officials from both parties have recently spoken out against the practice, though other obstructions to higher education still pose a bigger problem to middle and lower-class applicants.

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