Texas A&M Shelves Pilot Enrollment Plan
Texas A&M University officials have delayed a plan to automatically admit the top 20 percent of graduating seniors from 250 Texas high schools because legal concerns have not been answered in time for admissions this fall.
“The thought is to not rush this thing and to be sure that if there is a program, it is well thought out and thorough,” Scott Kelly, A&M’s deputy general counsel, told the Houston Chronicle.
Kelly said A&M officials may significantly reduce the number of eligible schools to about 100 to try to give the proposal sounder legal and philosophical footing. Texas A&M officials have said they hope the plan will make the university more diverse.
In December, A&M regents unanimously approved a proposal for a pilot program to automatically admit the top 20 percent of graduating seniors from 250 Texas high schools that typically do not send many students to the flagship university (see Black Issues, Jan. 17). Under state law, the university would automatically admit the top 10 percent of students from other schools.
Since most of the 250 schools have predominantly minority enrollments, the proposal was criticized as a possible violation of the 1996 Hopwood decision that bans Texas universities from using race-conscious admissions preferences and scholarships.
Texas A&M officials denied that the program was based on race, saying the schools were chosen under criteria they claimed were allowed by the Hopwood decision, such as socioeconomic factors and the percentage of limited English speakers.
Regents informally asked state Attorney General John Cornyn to rule on the constitutionality of the program before implementing it. Kelly said regents would likely take another vote on a final proposal.
Kelly said A&M officials considered altering the proposal soon after the regents’ vote, and asked the attorney general’s office to delay a ruling until a final proposal is presented.
The 43,000-student campus in College Station is sometimes perceived as inhospitable to minorities because its enrollment is 81 percent White, and its traditions stem from its past as an all-male, overwhelmingly White military training school.
Kelly said a “significant number” of rural schools in the original list of 250 schools have predominantly White enrollments. According to Kelly, A&M officials are considering modifying the proposal to be more similar to a bill passed by the Texas Legislature last spring to encourage public universities to admit students from high schools that do not typically send many students to Texas universities. This list has about 100 schools instead of 250, and some predominantly White schools are included in the smaller list as well, Kelly said.
Kelly also said any student admitted under the top 20 percent program would have to meet A&M curriculum requirements, minimum grade-point averages and standardized test scores. Under state law, students admitted in the top 10 percent program do not have to meet such requirements, Kelly said.
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