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Law Would Require Harder Classes for Top 10 Percent Applicants to University of Texas

Law Would Require Harder Classes for Top 10 Percent Applicants to University of Texas

Students who want automatic admission to Texas universities would have to take tougher high-school classes under a bill filed last month by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.

West says the university admissions law that requires universities to accept graduates who rank in the top 10 percent of their class is doing what it was intended, increasing diversity at Texas universities. But he said that some students who haven’t taken challenging courses have been unfairly admitted. His proposal follows a bill filed recently by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, that would repeal the admissions law.

“The upside of all this is we have diversity not only in terms of ethnicity but also geographically,” West says. “I think it’s a good thing for Texas.”

The proposed legislation would mandate that students admitted under the top 10 percent law complete the state’s recommended or advanced high-school programs. Both are considered college preparatory programs.

Wentworth said the 1997 law is unfair because it does not consider the difficulty of classes students take, nor the extracurricular activities in which they participate.

The law, adopted after a 1996 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision made affirmative action illegal in college admissions in Texas, is unnecessary, Wentworth argues. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court said admissions officials may use race as one of many decision-making factors.

Administrators at Texas universities have long called for a change in the top 10 percent law they say doesn’t provide an accurate assessment of student qualifications.

University of Texas at Austin officials are now considering race in admissions decisions. Texas A&M University officials are not.

West says doing away with the top 10 percent law would be disastrous.

Under the law, West says, more Black and Hispanic students and students from rural school districts in border areas and West Texas have enrolled at the state’s flagship universities.

“We have underrepresented high schools for the first time in the history of this state sending kids to the University of Texas,” he says.

During the 2003 legislative session, West, along with San Antonio Democrat Leticia Van de Putte, filibustered a bill that would cap at 50 percent of any freshman class the number of students admitted under the top 10 percent law.

West’s proposal is one of four filed so far during the current legislative session to revamp Texas university admissions. In addition to the two senators’ bills, two House members have presented proposals to change the system.

Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, has submitted legislation that would allow university systems to admit students accepted under the top 10 percent law to any system institution.

Rep. Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas, filed a bill last month that would require admission of students who graduate in the top 5 percent of their high-school class.

— Associated Press

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