A Star Graduate of France’s Elite School Wants to Close Its Doors

President Emmanuel Macron suggests shutting the École Nationale d’Administration, a symbol of cronyism for many protesters

STRASBOURG, France—One school has been the cradle of the French establishment for decades, grooming future presidents, prime ministers and chief executives.

Now, one of its most illustrious alumni, President Emmanuel Macron, wants to shut his alma mater, the École Nationale d’Administration, or ENA, an institution that has become a symbol of France’s close-knit elite and persistent class divide.

Mr. Macron aims to placate yellow-vest protesters who have bedeviled his government for months, accusing him of paying too little heed to the economic pain of the working and rural class.

ENA has become a particular target, along with its graduates, known as énarques.

The president’s proposal comes at the end of months of high-profile public debates he organized in response to the demonstrations.

“We need to abolish ENA,” Mr. Macron said in April.

The school’s closure would be part of a broader push to overhaul France’s education system for high-ranking civil servants in an effort to improve opportunities for the underprivileged. Mr. Macron has pledged “to build something new that works better,” but hasn’t provided further details.

ENA was designed as a meritocracy to open better opportunities to all students regardless of their background. But critics say the school has become a breeding ground for cronyism, perpetuating a social pecking order that allows énarques to monopolize top positions in society. They run the prime minister’s office, the finance ministry, the central bank, two of the highest courts and many top private-sector companies. Three of France’s past four presidents are graduates of the two-year program.

“It’s a very French hypocrisy. The system is egalitarian on paper but unequal in practice,” said Jean-Pascal Lanuit, a senior official at the culture ministry and a former ENA student.

But many believe shutting ENA won’t change an elitist culture perpetuated by a two-tier education system. On one side, there are highly competitive institutions known as grandes écoles, public and private schools that are akin to the U.S. Ivy League schools, including engineering school École Polytechnique and business school HEC Paris.

On the other are universities open to almost everyone, but with sometimes crowded classrooms and crumbling facilities.

ENA was founded after World War II to better train high-ranking civil servants and open top government positions that had been reserved for “wealthy students living in Paris,” according to a 1945 government document. The creation was orchestrated by the then-general secretary of the French communist party, under Charles de Gaulle’s temporary government.

.. The Strasbourg-based school recruits about 80 students every year—compared with 2,000 undergraduates at Harvard University—based on a rigorous competitive entrance exam that includes five written tests lasting as long as five hours each in law, economy, social issues and public finances.

Tuition is free and students receive a monthly stipend to pay for books and housing.

But critics say ENA counts few students from rural, low-income families, and most current students are young white men.

The main reason, critics say, is the growing inequality of the French education system. Indeed, most ENA students have attended France’s top high schools and one of the best preparatory classes for the entrance exam. As a result, instead of promoting social mobility, the system ends up subsidizing the education of the rich with taxpayers’ money.

Many ENA students come from similar neighborhoods and attended the same schools. “I knew almost everyone there when I arrived in school,” said Florian Paret, a 27-year-old Parisian and second-year student at ENA, who graduated from the elite Paris Institute of Political Studies.

There are fewer opportunities for social advancement today compared with 40 years ago, said Ségolène Royal, a former minister and socialist candidate for the 2007 presidential elections who attended ENA and graduated in 1980.

“I’m not sure that it would have been possible for me today to follow the same path because there’s a kind of state aristocracy that has established itself,” said Ms. Royal, who came from a middle-income family in eastern France, recently. While at ENA, she met François Hollande, who would become her long-term partner and French president.

Once inside ENA, competition is fierce because top-ranked students can cherry-pick the most prestigious government posts upon graduation, including working at France’s highest courts or powerful state auditing bodies.

“Competition is part of the school’s DNA,” said Alexandre Allegret-Pilot, 30, who had degrees in biology, law and business before entering ENA.

After they graduate, énarques must work for the government for at least 10 years. If they leave earlier, they need to partly reimburse the school for tuition; usually private companies that hire young énarques pay back ENA as part of the hiring compensation.

Today, more former students move between the private and public sectors, deepening the perception that énarques monopolize top positions. After joining the state auditing body, Mr. Macron worked for private bank Rothschild & Cie. from 2008 to 2012, before moving back to government.

The vast majority of énarques, however, work for the government for their entire career. Few actually run for office, even if the school is known for producing presidents and ministers.

“ENA is being used as a scapegoat,” said Joachim Bitterlich, a former German diplomat and member of ENA’s board, who graduated in 1974.

More recently, ENA, which accepts a few international students a year, has sought to broaden its student body, notably by creating preparatory classes for the entrance exam for students from underprivileged areas.

“ENA can change,” said Daniel Keller, who heads the alumni association. “But I’m all for preserving the ENA brand. It’s a label that has value.”

It will be up to Frédéric Thiriez, an énarque Mr. Macron chose in April to lead the overhaul of France’s civil servants’ training.

Even if ENA were to close, it isn’t clear if that will be enough to appease the yellow vests.

“That’s secondary,” said Theo Feugueur, a 19-year-old law student in the Paris region, who takes part in yellow-vest protests every Saturday. “He should abolish all the grandes écoles.”

 

Malcolm Gladwell: Grads who are Top in their Class do better than Equivalent Ivy League Grads

00:07
it’s a real pleasure to be here I’m I
00:10
was I’m acutely conscious of the fact as
00:13
I listened both to a previous speaker
00:15
and also the ones before that everyone
00:18
has been speaking about very
00:19
consequential and high-minded things
00:21
this morning and I’m not going to do
00:23
that
00:23
Oh in fact I intend to give what I’m
00:27
sure will be the most solipsistic talk
00:30
ever at a Google zeitgeist I simply why
00:33
want to talk about why on earth I
00:35
decided to say yes and come here here’s
00:41
a situation I am a writer part of what I
00:44
do to make my living is I go and give
00:46
speeches at conferences like this and I
00:49
get paid right as one would and it’s
00:55
that money that I use to to make my
00:58
living so how much is google paying me
01:00
for this zero it’s a company with what
01:04
50 billion dollars in the bank and they
01:06
don’t have a dime for poor little old
01:08
Malcolm now we could talk at length
01:11
about what this says about Google but I
01:14
that’s not what interests me what
01:16
interests me is what that says about me
01:19
why on earth would I say yes I’m just
01:22
such a circumstance why you know I’m I’m
01:25
busy my time is really valuable I why
01:29
did I fly all the way out here across
01:32
the country to give away my intellectual
01:34
property for free in fact wasn’t even
01:37
free I had to print out my speech this
01:39
morning in the business center and I was
01:42
just the bill cost me nine dollars and
01:45
87 cents it’s costing me to be here
01:49
now you can say that I came here because
01:52
there’s all kinds of interesting people
01:53
here which is true but it you know I
01:56
don’t mean to cast any aspersions any
01:58
aspersions on any of you but my life is
02:00
lousy with interesting people I got more
02:02
interesting people that I know too so
02:04
you could say well maybe I should have
02:05
come here I should come here because I
02:06
can make contacts that will help me you
02:09
know in the business world I’m not in
02:10
the business world I don’t need to meet
02:12
a VC I work out of my apartment if I
02:15
want to renovate my kitchen I’ll just go
02:17
to the bank for a loan
02:18
there’s no it doesn’t make any sense in
02:20
other words for for me to be here so why
02:24
did I say yes well the answer is that
02:27
that this conference is run by Google
02:29
one of the most prestigious and
02:32
successful companies in the world I
02:35
would not have agreed to speak for free
02:37
of a yahoo conference would I right so
02:43
in other words my decision to do
02:46
something that is not in my best
02:47
interest was caused by my association
02:51
with an elite institution and this is
02:54
what I want to talk about today it’s an
02:57
argument that I make in my new book
02:58
David and Goliath which in further proof
03:01
of how baffling my decision was to come
03:03
here is not available for sale at this
03:05
conference I like to call this problem
03:10
elite institution cognitive disorder or
03:13
OCD and it’s simply that elite
03:17
institutions screw us up in all kinds of
03:19
ways that were not always conscious of
03:23
and since the theme of this morning’s
03:25
session is imagine about a world I want
03:27
to try and imagine what the world would
03:29
look like if we freed ourselves of a
03:32
scourge of a ICD so I’m going to give
03:36
you a couple of examples of the ICD in
03:38
action the but let me start with a very
03:42
thorny question of of science and math
03:46
science and math education in this
03:48
country stem as we call it we have a
03:51
problem in turning out enough science
03:53
and math graduates right in this country
03:56
and it’s not for lack of interest by the
03:58
way among high school seniors lots and
04:01
lots and lots of high school seniors
04:02
want to
04:03
science in math degrees but
04:04
approximately half of them drop out by
04:07
the end of their second year so we have
04:09
a persistence problem in science and
04:11
math education in this country so the
04:14
question is why why does so many kids
04:16
drop out well the obvious answer is that
04:18
science and math are really hard and you
04:22
need to have a certain level of
04:23
cognitive ability to master those
04:25
subjects and we don’t have enough smart
04:27
kids right so so if you if that’s true
04:34
if science and math education is a
04:37
function of we should be able to see in
04:40
the statistics that persistence is a
04:42
function of your cognitive ability right
04:44
so let’s take a look I have Butler this
04:46
is the first time in my life I’ve ever
04:48
used PowerPoint this is like fantastic
04:50
moment for me I feel like I finally
04:52
joined the 20th century it’s really kind
04:54
of amazing
04:55
oh wow okay so this is a this is I’ve
05:00
just chosen Hartwick College as a proxy
05:03
for American colleges for totally random
05:06
reasons Hardwick is a small liberal arts
05:08
college in upstate New York and what we
05:10
have here is a distribution of math SAT
05:13
scores by among the people who are
05:16
intending to major in science and math
05:19
and what you can see is that there is
05:21
quite a wide range of native math
05:25
ability among the kids entering the
05:28
freshmen stem programs at Hardwick right
05:31
so what we would so what do we see when
05:33
we when we look at the who ends up
05:36
graduating with a stem degree what we
05:39
see is that at Hartwick College the kids
05:43
within the top third the top third SAT
05:46
scores end up getting well over half of
05:48
the stem degrees and the kids with the
05:50
bottom scores end up getting very few
05:53
the same degrees those kids over there
05:55
are dropping out like for all flies like
05:58
this would seem to suggest that our
05:59
original hypothesis that persistence is
06:02
a function of cognitive ability is true
06:04
and this one also we can also go further
06:07
we can say if this hypothesis is true as
06:09
we go to more and more selective
06:12
institutions we should see a ver
06:14
different pattern of persistence we
06:16
should see less kids dropping out
06:18
because the kids are all smarter right
06:20
so let’s go to Harvard these numbers
06:23
were a few years old but at Harvard you
06:26
can see that the bottom third of math
06:28
SAT scores among kids doing science and
06:30
math are equal to the top third at
06:33
Hartwick the dumb students at Harvard
06:36
are as smart as the smart students at
06:38
Hartwick so you’d think everybody at
06:40
heart at Harvard should be getting a
06:42
math and science degree right why would
06:43
they drop out everyone’s so smart what
06:46
do we see oh dear what we see is the
06:50
exact same pattern at Harvard that we
06:52
saw at Hardwick the smart kids are the
06:55
top kids are getting all the degrees the
06:57
kids at the bottom aren’t getting any to
06:59
be the dropping out like flies right
07:01
even though these kids are brilliant
07:03
right so what’s happening well clearly
07:09
what we’re seeing here is that
07:13
persistence in science and math is not
07:16
simply a function of your cognitive
07:19
ability it’s a function of your relative
07:22
standing in your class the function of
07:24
your class rank right those kids who are
07:28
really really brilliant don’t get their
07:30
math degree not because that is a
07:32
function of their IQ but as a function
07:35
of where they are in their class and by
07:37
the way if you look at any college you
07:40
want you will always see regardless of
07:43
the level of cognitive ability among the
07:44
students you will always see the same
07:46
pattern the kids who get the science and
07:48
math degrees are the ones in the top of
07:50
their class and the kids in the bottom
07:52
of their class never do look at over
07:54
that bottom third the bottom third chart
07:59
over there so the name given for this
08:02
phenomenon among psychologists is
08:05
relative deprivation theory and it
08:08
describes this exceedingly robust
08:10
phenomenon which says that as human
08:13
beings we do not form our self
08:16
assessments based on our standing in the
08:18
world we form our self assessments based
08:22
on our standing in the in our immediate
08:24
circle on those in the same boat as our
08:28
selves right so a classic example of
08:30
relative deprivation theory is which
08:34
kind of country which countries have the
08:36
highest suicide rates happy countries or
08:39
unhappy countries and the answer is
08:42
happy countries right if you’re morbidly
08:46
depressed in a country where everyone
08:48
else is really unhappy you don’t feel
08:50
that unhappy right you’re not comparing
08:53
yourself to the universe a whole
08:54
universe of people out there no you’re
08:56
comparing yourself to your neighbors and
08:58
the kids at school and they’re unhappy
09:00
too
09:00
so you’re so defined but if you’re
09:02
morbidly depressed in a country where
09:05
everyone is jumping up and down for joy
09:07
you are really depressed right that is a
09:10
very very very profoundly serious place
09:13
to be and so as a result you get that
09:16
sad outcome more often so what’s
09:19
happening at Harvard then is the kid in
09:22
the bottom third of his class at Harvard
09:24
does not say rationally I am in the
09:27
99.99% I love all students in the world
09:30
when it comes to native math ability
09:31
even though that’s true
09:32
what that kid says is that kid over
09:36
there Johnny over there is getting all
09:38
the answers right and I’m not I feel
09:40
like I’m really stupid and I can’t
09:42
handle math so I’m going to drop out get
09:44
a fine arts degree move to Brooklyn
09:46
we’re make fifteen thousand dollars a
09:48
year and break my parents heart right so
09:53
what is the implication of this the
09:55
implication of this is that if you want
09:58
to get a science and math degree don’t
09:59
go to Harvard right in fact we can run
10:02
the numbers on this mitchell chang at
10:04
UCLA recently did the numbers and he
10:05
says as a rule of thumb your odds of
10:08
graduating persisting successfully
10:12
getting a science and math degree fall
10:14
by two percentage points for every
10:17
10-point increase in the average SAT
10:19
score of your peers so if you’re a kid
10:22
and you have a choice between a few and
10:26
university of maryland is your safety
10:29
university maryland has 150 as on
10:32
average SAT scores are 150 points lower
10:34
at maryland that means your chance of
10:37
graduating with a stem degree from
10:39
maryland is 30
10:41
and higher than it would be at Harvard
10:42
right now so if you choose to go to
10:46
Harvard not Maryland you are taking an
10:48
enormous gamble you are since you’re
10:50
essentially saying this stem degree by
10:52
the way the most valuable commodity any
10:54
college graduate can have in today’s
10:57
economy I am going to take a 30% gamble
11:01
in my chances of getting that degree
11:03
just so I can put Harvard on my resume
11:05
is that worth it I don’t think so right
11:09
but how many kids given a choice between
11:11
Harvard and Maryland choose Maryland not
11:15
that many
11:16
why yes Edie now why does CIC D persist
11:22
if it’s so plainly irrational well I
11:25
think it’s because as human beings we
11:27
dramatically underestimate the cost of
11:30
being at the bottom of a hierarchy and
11:34
I’ll let me give you another really
11:35
remarkable example of this this is from
11:37
a paper that was just came out from a
11:40
guy named John to two economists John
11:42
Conley and Ally Cindy Ally under rather
11:45
they looked at graduates of PhD programs
11:50
economics PhD programs at American
11:53
universities and what they were
11:54
interested in was what is the
11:57
publication record of these graduates in
11:59
the six years after they took an
12:02
academic position so as you know the
12:05
principal way by which we evaluate
12:06
economists is how often how often and
12:10
how well do they publish so what these
12:12
guys did is they did a little algorithm
12:13
took the top economics journals and
12:16
weighted them according to their level
12:18
of prestige and came up with a number of
12:21
how many years of score in the six years
12:23
after graduation so we get this chart
12:26
here which you can see first of all look
12:29
at the 99th percentile so what this says
12:31
is the 90 the kids who are in the 99th
12:34
percentile of their PhD program at
12:37
Harvard MIT Yale Princeton Columbia
12:39
Stanford Chicago the 99th percentile
12:41
that’s what they publish the Harvard
12:43
students publish 4.31 journal articles
12:47
in their first six years after
12:49
graduation that’s amazing right
12:52
astounding number same with MIT
12:55
4.7 3 all the way down the list what we
12:58
see here is that the best students at
13:00
the very best schools are extraordinary
13:03
and that comes as no surprise you just
13:05
saw Larry Summers here I don’t know
13:08
where he went
13:08
Larry Summers that’s Larry Summers right
13:11
brilliant genius
13:12
we knew that let’s look at the 85th
13:17
percentile
13:17
now the 85th percentile at these schools
13:20
these are schools that might take two
13:22
dozen PhD students every year so if
13:25
you’re in the 85th percentile in the MIT
13:27
economics program you’re the 5th or 6th
13:30
best student in your class that’s really
13:32
smart
13:33
ok the 85th percent student at MIT or at
13:37
Harvard’s to Harvard publishes basically
13:39
one paper in their first six years
13:43
versus 4.31 in the top student so the
13:46
gap between 1 and 5 is enormous right
13:50
it’s 5x now let’s go down to the 55th
13:53
percentile at Harvard so the 55th
13:56
percent at percentile at Harvard is the
13:59
let’s say the 12th best person at the
14:04
greatest economics program in the world
14:07
they could arguably say they are one of
14:09
the 20 top PhD economics students in the
14:13
world right look at their publication
14:15
rate point zero seven basically they’re
14:18
not publishing at all by any standard by
14:20
which we judge academic economists these
14:22
people are complete failures right now
14:28
I’ve picked flouse a schools
14:33
and I’ve started with Toronto which is
14:35
where I went to school so this is a
14:37
little a little masochistic moment where
14:40
I basically confess to how paltry my
14:44
academic pedigree is I’ve also picked bu
14:47
and then I’ve also picked nan top 30 is
14:50
simply all the schools that are so
14:53
terrible I can’t bring myself to name
14:55
them so we’ve we’ve aggregated them all
14:58
so these are schools that if your child
15:00
anyone in the soup if your child said
15:03
yeah we’re going to go to one of these
15:04
schools you would weep what do we see
15:08
here what we see here is that the 99th
15:12
percentile at these lousy schools
15:15
publish more than everyone at the top
15:20
schools except for the 99th percentile
15:23
right you see that look at Toronto 3.13
15:26
the only people who publish more than
15:29
the top student at Toronto are the top
15:31
students at those top seven schools
15:32
these the top student at Boston is
15:35
publishing three times more than the
15:39
80th percentile student at Harvard what
15:44
does this tell us
15:45
well it tells us that oh they’re before
15:50
I got there the guys who did this study
15:51
having done the study were so stunned at
15:55
what they were seeing at what they were
15:57
saying that they end their their article
16:00
with this whole thing about what on
16:02
earth is going on with Harvard but
16:05
here’s a school which is collecting the
16:07
most brilliant the most accomplished the
16:11
probably the best-looking graduate
16:14
students in economics imaginable I can’t
16:17
imagine the bar is that high but
16:19
nonetheless it presumably is a selection
16:21
criteria they guided them all together
16:24
and yet everyone except for the very
16:26
very best students is basically a flop
16:28
and they say I’m quoting them why is it
16:31
that the majority of these successful
16:33
applicants who were winners and did all
16:36
the right things up to the time they
16:38
applied to graduate school became so
16:40
unimpressive after they are trained
16:43
ah relief here’s the in this moment of
16:45
of Jen of genuine distress and the part
16:49
of these two economists are we failing
16:51
the students or are they failing us no
16:56
one’s failing anyone what you’re just
16:59
seeing is relative deprivation in action
17:02
right when it comes to confidence and
17:04
motivation and self-efficacy the things
17:06
that really matter when it comes to
17:09
making your way in the world relative
17:12
position matters more than absolute
17:14
position right the 80th percentile
17:17
student at Harvard looks at those kids
17:19
who are smarter than him and says I
17:20
can’t do it the number one student at
17:23
Missouri says wow I am lord of the manor
17:27
I’m going to go out and conquer the
17:29
world right so what does it mean well
17:33
what it means what it means first of all
17:35
when it comes to hiring it means you
17:37
should hire in the basis of class rank
17:39
and you should be completely indifferent
17:41
to the institution attended by the
17:44
applicant in fact we should have a
17:45
don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy for the name
17:48
of your undergraduate institution it’s
17:51
hurting us to know that doesn’t help us
17:53
and when you hear some institution some
17:56
fabulous Wall Street investment bank
17:58
some universities say we only hire from
18:01
the top schools you should say you moron
18:04
that’s the word that’s what the that’s
18:07
not the the previous I don’t know how to
18:09
go backwards on slide so no you don’t
18:12
want to hire from only the best higher
18:14
than the top stood students from any
18:16
school Under the Sun right and it also
18:19
means that when it comes if you have
18:21
kids going to college when it comes to
18:23
choosing your undergraduate institution
18:26
you should never go to the best
18:28
institution you get into never go to
18:31
your second or your third choice go to
18:33
the place where you’re guaranteed to be
18:34
in the top part of your class right so
18:37
why don’t we do that well why did I come
18:41
here when it was profoundly in my
18:44
self-interest not to write because when
18:48
we have an opportunity to join elite
18:50
institutions we are so enormous ly
18:52
flattered and pleased with ourselves
18:54
that we do things that are irrational
18:56
you

Federal Prosecutors Charge Dozens in College Admissions Cheating Scheme

Charges involve cheating on college entrance exams, efforts to bribe coaches; Actresses Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin among those indicted

In one instance, prosecutors said, the head women’s soccer coach at Yale accepted a $400,000 bribe in exchange for admitting a candidate as a recruited athlete. The student didn’t even play competitive soccer, according to prosecutors. After the student was admitted, her parents paid a college admissions consultant $1.2 million.

The consultant, William Singer, is expected to plead guilty to racketeering and other crimes Tuesday afternoon. He allegedly facilitated the fraud through Newport Beach, Calif.-based the Edge College & Career Network LLC.

Mr. Singer allegedly accepted payments in exchange for arranging that some of the teens could sit for the SAT or ACT college-entrance exams with extra time by getting doctor’s notes detailing learning disabilities or other issues, and that they take the tests with proctors who had been bribed to either correct wrong answers or take the test on the student’s behalf. Parents paid Mr. Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 for the test help, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Singer also allegedly helped parents work with coaches to claim admission spots reserved for recruited athletes, staging photos of the teens playing sports or photo-shopping images of the teens’ faces onto stock photos of young athletes.

Prosecutors alleged that charitable organizations were used as fronts for the bribery payments, which figured into the tens or hundreds of thousands in certain cases. Parents made the payments in the form of donations to his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation

Other high-profile parents named in the case include Gordon Caplan, co-chairman of New York City law firm Willkie Farr.

Also charged was Bill McGlashan, founder and managing partner of TPG Growth, the arm of the private-equity firm that invests in fast-growing companies, including Airbnb Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. With $13.2 billion in assets, TPG’s growth business has played a prominent role in the firm’s strategy since the financial crisis, and Mr. McGlashan’s star has risen at the firm.

Liberal Hypocrisy in College Admissions?

The legacy system is affirmative action for the privileged.

We progressives hail opportunity, egalitarianism and diversity. Yet here’s our dirty little secret: Some of our most liberal bastions in America rely on a system of inherited privilege that benefits rich whites at the expense of almost everyone else.

I’m talking about “legacy preferences” that elite universities give to children of graduates. These universities constitute some of the world’s greatest public goods, but they rig admissions to favor applicants who already have had every privilege in life.

.. Most of the best universities in America systematically discriminate in favor of affluent, privileged alumni children. If that isn’t enough to get your kids accepted, donate $5 million to the university, and they’ll get a second look.

.. Reeves noted the irony that in Europe and most of the rest of the world, there is no such explicit system of legacy preferences, yet in supposedly egalitarian America it is formal and systematic.

.. Isn’t it a bit hypocritical that institutions so associated with liberalism should embrace a hereditary aristocratic structure? Ah, never underestimate the power of self-interest to shape people’s views. As Reeves put it dryly: “American liberalism tends to diminish as the issues get closer to home.”

.. having a parent graduate increased the chance of admission at 30 top colleges by 45 percentage points. For example, a candidate who otherwise had a 20 percent shot became a 65 percent prospect with a parent who had graduated from that school.

.. Earlier, a 2004 Princeton study estimated that legacy at top schools was worth an additional 160 points on an SAT, out of 1600 points.

Legacy preferences apparently were introduced in America in the early 1900s as a way to keep out Jewish students. To their credit, some American universities, including M.I.T. — not to mention Oxford and Cambridge in Britain — don’t give a legacy preference.

The top universities say that legacy preferences help create a multigenerational community of alumni, and that’s a legitimate argument. They also note that rewarding donors helps encourage donations that can be used to finance scholarships for needy kids.

Yet on balance, I’m troubled that some of America’s greatest institutions grant a transformative opportunity disproportionately to kids already steeped in advantage, from violin lessons to chess tournaments to SAT coaching. On top of that, letting wealthy families pay for extra consideration feels, to use a technical term, yucky.

Liberals object to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing tycoons to buy political influence, so why allow tycoons to buy influence in college admissions?