One story shows how powerful white politicians enjoy preferences in college admissions at a time when courts are barring public colleges from using affirmative action to help minority students. The other shows how pervasive preferences for minority students have become at some institutions. Based on information received through open-records requests from Texas colleges, the story examines how college presidents and deans gave special consideration to applications of the well-connected. The story spotlights such a policy at Texas A&M. The second story scrutinizes a long-standing affirmative action policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago that allows most black, Hispanic, and American Indian students to register for classes before most white and Asian students.