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Race, Merit, and College Access: Students' Perceptions of Affirmative Action Open Access

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Many studies have examined undergraduate students’ attitudes toward affirmative action in college admissions. But few studies have linked affirmative action with beliefs about access to equal educational opportunity in higher education. This study examined how a sample of currently enrolled undergraduate students understand the relationship between educational equity and affirmative action in college admissions. Survey data was collected from a racially and ethnically diverse sample (N = 230) at a single institution in the Mid-Atlantic region before and after the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal. Findings revealed that race was more important than political ideology in explaining attitudes towards affirmative action, with similarly liberal black students supporting affirmative action at higher levels than white students. The 2019 college admissions bribery scandal also reshaped attitudes about affirmative action on racial lines, with black students increasing and white students decreasing support for affirmative action.

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