Affirmative Action shaped their lives. Now, they reckon with its legacy.

A few concluded that the downsides of race-conscious admissions outweighed the benefits. Some spoke of carrying an extra layer of impostor syndrome. Many more grieved the closing of a path that led to rewarding careers and the building of wealth.

Their experience may inform the present, as Americans continue to debate how to define—and align—the principles of fairness and merit, as well as address enduring racial disparities without deepening racial divisions. At least in the immediate future, Black and Hispanic enrollment is expected to plunge.

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