Last week I found myself in Sun Valley, Idaho, at a conference with a lot of big wigs. Among them was Larry Summers—an economist, the Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton, and a former president of Harvard University. The timing was fortuitous.
Last month, Harvard went before the Supreme Court to defend its race-based admission policies—and lost the case, thus overturning the legality of affirmative action. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that those admissions programs quote, “cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
This ruling has led to a debate in American life about the future of higher education, and it’s caused many to question another admissions policy that numerous American universities have long taken for granted: legacy admissions, the policy of giving preference to college applicants whose family has already attended the school. In light of the Supreme Court ruling, legacy admissions have been scrapped at top schools including Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, and just this week at Wesleyan University.
So I wanted to sit down with Larry Summers to talk about the future of American higher education, whether eliminating legacy admissions actually goes far enough, what he thinks admission departments will do in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, and what he might have done differently as president of Harvard if he could go back in time. And lastly, what makes American higher education worth saving in the first place.
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices