Views of Who Can Attend College Are Deeply Divided by Race

By Peter Schmidt

Race appears to play a central role in shaping Americans’ views on higher-education access, and many see minority students as advantaged and middle-class students as disadvantaged when it comes to opportunity to attend college, according to study results scheduled to be presented next week at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association.

"What we see from our data is that there are several different groups of Americans who have very different views about who is able to attend college and who is not," said Brian Powell a professor of sociology at Indiana University at Bloomington who is one of the coauthors of a paper on the study’s findings.

Their study found that race and ethnicity played a profound role—and income or education level played little role at all—in determining views on college access. On the whole, Americans see minority students as having much greater advantages in seeking access to college than is actually the case, although white people are much more likely than black and Hispanic segments of the population to hold such a view.

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