BUFFALO, N.Y. — Legislation that proponents have named the “Fair College Admissions Act” is meant to prohibit New York state two- and four-year schools from considering family alumni when choosing new students.

Assembly sponsor Latrice Walker, D-Brooklyn, said the practice effectively discriminates against low-income families and students of color.

"The Fair College Admissions Act is about leveling the playing field,” Walker said. “We know that education is the civil rights issue of our time and that with an access to a quality education, even through college, basically breaks down generational curses.”

Tully Rinckey Associate Attorney Nick Marricco said the legislation is well-intentioned. 

"Nobody wants someone to get into a college, let alone a good college, simply because their grandparents went there or simply because their wife went there or their husband went there, their parents went there, their older sibling went there,” Marricco said. “Nobody wants that.”

However, Marricco believes some of the language raises questions and concerns. He said the bill would prohibit colleges from asking where family members went to school and bars the information from being among the documents they include in admissions considerations.

"The college could still consider it," Marricco said. "There's nothing preventing them from doing that. All it does is it prevents the college from asking where your family members went to school."

The attorney said it raises questions about what colleges should do if legacy information is offered voluntarily in personal statements, essays and interviews. He also believes it could be ripe for a lawsuit, specifically from religious schools who could claim the prohibition is a violation of the First Amendment. 

"They might come out and say, ‘listen, our religious values say we have to consider this.’ That could be a challenge. It might be a successful one," Marricco said.

Walker said the bottom line is everybody should have equal access to education, regardless of the family from which they're born. She said she hopes to pass the bill this year.

"I am pushing very hard, together with my colleague in the Senate, and there are a number of other advocates who are hoping that we are actually going to be able to get this done as well," Walker said.

The legislation does not apply to postgraduate degree programs. Marricco also pointed out the proposed legislation does not create an opportunity for individuals to sue institutions. 

Rather, it would institute a penalty equal to 10% of a school's prior year full-time equivalent first-year students multiplied by its tuition and fees. The money would then be used to help subsidize school for students from lower income families.