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Inside Politics

Bush opposes 'legacy' college admissions

Point raised at conference of minority journalists

President Bush addresses a Washington conference of minority journalists on Friday.
George W. Bush
America Votes 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Friday he opposes the use of a family history at colleges or universities as a factor in determining admission.

Bush stated his position to what's known as "legacy" in response to a question during a Washington forum for minority journalists called Unity 2004.

He was asked, "Colleges should get rid of legacy?"

Bush responded, "Well I think so, yes. I think it ought to be based upon merit."

Under legacy programs, applicants are given an advantage if their parents or grandparents attended the school. Bush, a third-generation graduate of Yale University, joked about his own legacy.

"Well, in my case, I had to knock on a lot of doors to follow the old man's footsteps," he said to laughter.

Bush's remark came as he was being grilled about his opposition to affirmative action programs that consider race as a factor for admission, particularly through quota systems.

Bush said admission should be based "on merit."

Bush has not previously expressed opposition to the use of family lineage at a university to help admission.

In a lengthy exchange with the journalist, Bush said there should be no "special exception for certain people."

He expressed his support for diversity.

Affirmative action

While Bush clearly stated his opposition to quotas, he also suggested that he was not opposed to affirmative action.

But he didn't explain what the distinction was.

"I support college affirmatively taking action to get more minorities in their school," Bush said as the audience laughed.

Prominent civil rights leaders have also called for an end to the legacy practice, as have some Democrats -- including vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards.

In a 2002 speech on education, Edwards called it "a birthright out of 18th-century British aristocracy, not 21st-century American democracy."

Following Bush's remark on Friday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told CNN it's a positive step "if it's a policy, not just a speech."

"'Legacy points' are very widespread for children of wealth," he said, arguing that underprivileged children have their opportunities limited by a legacy system.

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