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Attitudes Toward Access To Higher Education Affected By Race, Study Shows

A new study shows that perceptions of who has greater access to higher education differ according to race, with black and Hispanic respondents more likely to say that minorities face barriers to entry and white respondents more likely to say that minority students have an advantage, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

According to a paper titled “The Blind Side: Americans' Perceptions of Inequalities in College Access," analysis of a 2007 survey of 1,001 adults reveals a “reverse-discrimination sentiment.” Head researcher and Indiana University sociology professor Brian Powell told the Chronicle that "Some Americans believe that low-income families are the most disadvantaged, while others believe that middle-class families are the most disadvantaged,” and that these skewed perceptions are significant because they likely affect how individuals view educational policies, and how they make personal education-related decisions.

Although he and co-authors Kristin M. Jordan and Oren Pizmony did not have sufficient data to prove their theory, Powell told the Chronicle that “we believe that the debates regarding affirmative action have played a critical role in people's views.”

Richard Kahlenberg, who has authored a number of books on access to education, writes that other studies have shown that discussions of affirmative action can contribute to negative stereotyping of minorities. And though schools with affirmative action programs do give an admissions advantage to minority applicants, they do not have a comparable program for qualified low-income students, who attend college at much lower rates than qualified applicants in upper and middle financial quadrants.

Notable findings from the “Blind Side” study include:

• Around 25 percent of respondents said qualified middle class students were at a disadvantage in terms of access to higher education, and that qualified minority and low-income students held an advantage

• Approximately 27 percent of respondents said minority students face inequalities in terms of access to colleges and universities.

• 43 percent of those surveyed said qualified low-income students have less of an opportunity to access higher education than qualified middle class and minority students

• More than 60 percent of respondents said that many qualified applicants are unable to gain entry to postsecondary institutions, with women more likely than men to agree

• Only around 10 percent of respondents said that qualified middle class students have an advantage in terms of access to higher education

Click over to the Chronicle has more results. Do you think affirmative action is a positive program? Share your thoughts in the comments section.